My heart is heavy.
I haven’t shared these thoughts, thinking that it’s just not kind to be such a bummer during the holidays. And admittedly, there is much to celebrate — to be thankful for — to enjoy this time of year!
Ringing in the new year has been solemn, as my thoughts return again and again to the people in my life that I love who are in pain. A friend who is a young mother of three, is very sick and experiencing extreme physical pain. Actually I have a several friends who are suffering physical pain. Another lost their mother unexpectedly. A family member’s wife is leaving him – they have two young children.
I find myself wondering how much of life are purely random even chance. How much of a difference do our choices make? Do you think some things are pre-determined? Was my friend always going to get sick? Was this family member always going to walk out on their marriage?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary RANDOM is:
Having no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, etc., without method or conscious choice; haphazard.
Is it just pure randomness that some get cancer and some don’t. Some die from a disease, some don’t. Some are generally optimistic people, others are pessimists. Some choose truth. Some choose lies. Some stay married for better or worse, in sickness & health, till someone dies. And some people give up. Good things happen to some. Sh*t happens. Some lead charmed lives. Some just don’t. Alternatively, some with easy lives aren’t happy and others with challenges and trials have true joy. Go figure.
I do not believe that all of life is random, but are we the sum of our choices? I don’t think so. I hold strongly to the belief that through forgiveness life changes. Through God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others our circumstances change. Our fates are changed. We change our future by being people who are always growing and developing, people who have personal strength and integrity. And that takes faith. But I am getting ahead of myself.
There is an aspect of chance and randomness that feels fated.
Are we in command of our lives? How much of a difference do our choices really make? Will we not die when we’re supposed to die. Or get sick when we’re supposed to get sick. How much do our choices really affect our destiny?
Can I change my future by what I do or don’t do. If I choose over and over again in my life a certain, unselfish path will more good things happen to me? That’s been debated for hundreds even thousands of years. I would say, of course not. My good actions don’t bring me good karma. Or vice versa. That is why so much of life just isn’t “fair.”
I have always thought it was a cosmic curse to have a propensity for addiction. It’s all over my family tree and all over me. Not based on my choices per say. So, will I always be an addict or can I change? I chose to stop drinking. And I choose to believe that I have control over (at least that bit of) my destiny and I still believe that.
And then the little devil of addiction jumps to something else. For a while even Farmville. For two months last winter I was addicted to the point that I lied about how much time I spent on it, even to myself. It’s ugly!
And for many years I have worked against a shopping addiction. Yes, worked against. Now that is a slippery, elusive purely evil addiction. So much of life in the American Dream of a culture is centered around shopping, so much so we even shop for our entertainment. It’s how we “provide”, how we “take care of” our family. And one can easily lie to themselves about the “need” for many, many purchases.
But I know I have a problem and I’ve had to do various things to control it and I am grateful for God’s grace — and Tom’s grace! Because there are times when I genuinely can’t seem to control myself. And sometimes I can. And do. And that’s what makes it so tricky.
When it comes to lying there is so much gray.
Here’s what I’ve honestly been thinking about — marriage, love and commitment which is really what I have been thinking about. I ask myself what holds some marriages together — like my in-laws who have been together for fifty years? It’s more like fifty-five, as they met each other in middle school. They really “shouldn’t” have lasted because the circumstances were such that they had everything going against them. Married very young (17 & 19). An early pregnancy. Another baby a year later. But I’m not here to tell their story, I’m just wondering how that happened? Random chance? Or by choice. So I asked them what they thought was the key to staying together? Bonnie said: “We always looked at it as a lifetime commitment. And I learned not to try to change him. Accept him for who he is and vice versa.”
Well, that’s what I have always believed.
- That we have a lifetime to get it right.
- We shouldn’t expect our partner to change.
- That I should work to be the person I want to be married to.
- That love means serving one another.
- That I am not a perfect** person so how can I expect him to be perfect? **Yeah, that’s an understatement.
Be the person you want to be with.
What makes it work for Tom and me? Yes, we have disagreements and disappointments with one another. Isn’t that normal? Thought not that many, which I suppose isn’t normal. But contrary to the perception I got from reading Harlequin Romances no-one is perfect. And even gorgeous people gain weight and lose their hair. They lose jobs. They lose vitality. They sometimes even “lose it.”
But I was actually thinking about internal qualities which are the stuff of genuine love: how we treat one another. Do we respect, trust, and love? Do we affirm? Are we kind most of the time? … Those are the things that hold marriages together, I think. And even if things aren’t perfect, it makes for a great life, exploring it together!
And speaking of strange — we all know couples where there is abuse involved — and yet strangely they stay together. My mother stayed with my father for 42 years and he was a b*st*rd to her. No not all the time. Not publicly. Not in ways that she or I can “prove” because words don’t leave bruises people can see. She says she stayed because she believed marriage was for life. I really believe she should have left him. But she stayed until she buried him. Who am I to judge one way or another and this isn’t about her story either.
Back to the questions.
Should two people who aren’t “happy” [with each other] separate? Divorce? What if there are kids? What if there is no abuse? What if one is an addict? Or one of them is a chronic liar? What if one of them is destroying their future and won’t get help? I don’t know.
Tom has “stuck” with me through all my nonsense and pain, history, baggage, “stuff” I’ve had to work out in counseling. Because he made a commitment to me? Because he loves me? Yes to both. And because he is good and generous and kind man. Because he believes in that illusive thing: lifetime commitment? Some days perhaps that was why, the commitment. But no matter why I am so glad he did.
Then I think about the random fact that if Tom’s first wife hadn’t walked out on him after eleven years of marriage, he and I wouldn’t be together. Randomness. Chance.
Random chance? But if you give in to that kind of loosy-goosy thinking then nothing is solid. Nothing can be counted on. No one can be counted on and no one can count on you. We do have choices and they do make a difference. It makes us who we are, a person of character. Or not. And it impacts what happens to us.
Galatians 5:24-25 (NLT) says
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians to me is about obedience; asking ourselves, as we search our heart for the passions and desires of our sinful nature, what does love have to do with it? Can we lay them down our selfishness and sinful desires?
What does it mean to obey in the midst of broken hearts and broken lives, randomness, sinful choices, abuse, selfishness, commitment, love and the simple pursuit of happiness — because in the end isn’t that what we all want — to be happy.
What does it mean to follow the Spirit’s leading with our passion and desires?