Today's lessons clear in hindsight

Saturday, September 1, 2007

I was required to write my life's story numerous times as I attended college. "Why would I want to reach into the past and dredge up memories?" I asked myself. The past was over! I saw no reason to waste energy thinking about what was done. I placed more importance on what was happening now, and, particularly, in the future. I discovered why writing one's life story is valuable.

I saw my life events as a woven tapestry: each thread going in a different direction, yet connected. One thing caused another, helped in the attainment of a goal, or taught a lesson or skill I needed later. The strands kept intertwining. I realized I had learned the most during the darkest moments. Although I could see little significance during the hubbub, confusion and often hard work, when the threads began to untangle, I saw how they had formed the pattern of what my life is now.

While working on my undergraduate degree in psychology, I was forced to take a computer class to fulfill a University Studies requirement. I prided myself on bragging, "I don't do computers." How I thought I could hold a job without using one, I'll never know, but computers actually scared me. I knew I would mess up the whole system or the computer would explode. The point is, God knew more than I did. I took the difficult class, passed it, and I still give thanks for having had it. Without the knowledge of what I learned during those weeks, I could never have accomplished what I eventually wanted to do.

I talked with a young man, Wayne, recently who said it was his depression that brought him back to the church. "I was so miserable during that dark time," he said, "I hated my job, didn't know how to get out of it, and I was broke. I was at the bottom of a deep threatening pit. I gasped for air and turned back to God. It was he who supplied it."

Now Wayne has a master's degree in teaching and is successful and happy in his profession. In addition, he now has a great wife and family. He is thankful he looked back and saw how that bout with depression brought him to where he is now. The road could have led him elsewhere -- into drugs and alcohol, perhaps -- but he used his suffering to take the right direction. As Wayne keeps journeying, he remembers to look back to see how far he's come and where and how he's traveled to get there.

It's strange how and where life leads us. Often what seems to be the worst possible scenario is the best thing for us. We merely fail to recognize its value during the days we're undergoing the trial. Sometimes we learn life's lessons by taking a route other than what we had intended. But regardless, we've ended up where we are through the influence of an event, friendship, enemy, job or school. What activities and experiences have contributed to your being at the place you are?

When one realizes his dreams; it's usually after much searching, insight, labor and sometimes, natural talent. But without the roots of what one learns one day, future efforts fail to bring results. Outcomes can bring credible achievements or undesirable distress. Hopefully, one will seek to listen to the Holy Spirit and reach his rightful destination.

Life truly is exciting. One may or may not know that he is learning things today that will be uncovered as needed. I've learned to accept what I don't like with a questioning mind and what I enjoy with thanksgiving. Most of all I ask God, "What must I learn?" My answer usually is, "Everything works together for the good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28.)

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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