I'm preparing to officiate a wedding this weekend.
Among all of the details that go into the big day--the bride walking down the aisle, the vows, the exchange of rings, the pronouncement--I try to slip a significant moment into a seemingly mundane one--the prayer. Part of it goes like this:
"We don't pray for easy--we pray for peace when the storm comes, for courage to face their fears, and for wisdom to keep choosing each other."
It's kind of a weird prayer, to say we don't want things to be easy, especially at a feel-good, fairy-tale event like a wedding. I'm okay with it, though, because A) easy isn't realistic, and B) easy isn't all that helpful.
And this is true for all of us, married or single, young or old. We want easy. I do. I want to read a book on leadership, and by the time I finish the last word of the last sentence on the last page, I want those leadership skills to have absorbed into my being the way sunblock absorbs into my skin. I want to read an article on courage and magically be able to run over my fears like they're old junkyard cars and I'm behind the wheel of a monster truck of bravery.
I want everyone to say "yes" when I want or need something. I want to have good ideas pour out of my brain and onto the page the way all beer seems to flow into the glass in commercials. When I set my mind on something, I don't want to hear the words "challenge" or "hurdle" or "hard work." I don't want to have difficult conversations--I want to snap my fingers and have people get it and agree. I want to have customer service for my life the way Amazon does it for customers--oh, you have problem? Taken care of--no hassle.
I can't possibly be the only one, right?
There's a problem, though. We can wish and hope and cross our fingers for easy all we want, but there's a relentless enemy to our comfortable, cruise-control life:
It's like the freakin' Terminator (I'm referencing the T-1000 from Terminator 2, for the record)--it never quits, it never leaves you alone for too long. Just when you think you can sit back and breathe, it shows up and tries to impale your comfort zone with that freaky finger-thing:
Maybe you're having one of those moments, one of those days, one of those weeks--when adversity finds you and jacks up your sense of normalcy, balance, or peace.
Can I make a suggestion? What if adversity is less T-1000 Terminator trying to destroy all that is good in your life, and more like one of those parents, teachers, or coaches who was always in your face, always in your business, and who made you furious--but also kind of made you better?
If that sounds like a horrible idea to you, I get it. It's easy to think of adversity as the enemy. After all, some of our adversity actually comes in the form of a real-life enemy (like a Nickelback fan who plays his music loud enough for your ears to hear it).
I think we need adversity, though. Perhaps necessary evil is a more palatable term for some adversity? Without it, I'm not sure how much we'd progress as people. We need it to be better. We need to be shaken up a bit to solidify our character. We need to be cut back a little to grow more. We need to be broken down to build back stronger.
We don't want it to be that way, it sometimes sucks that it's that way, but it is. The strength I have today, the wisdom, the grace, the compassion, the vision, is because I had to go through some hard, painful, uncomfortable stuff.
I'm not going to go as far as to say, "Hey, be super grateful for this crappy situation you have on your hands." I'm not ever going to smile and think, "Gee. How great is it that someone ripped my heart out of my chest and dragged it for miles from the back of a truck?" I can't look my friends in the eyes and suggest they ever be thankful for the miscarriages or betrayals or diseases or losses they've experienced. I can only suggest this:
We can take the crap of adversity and make something worthwhile from it. In fact, I think living the fullest, deepest, richest life possible depends on our ability to take adversity and learn from it.
Whether the adversity is small-scale, like being stuck in traffic or losing your wallet, or something more substantial, like a heartbreak or losing a job, we're offered an opportunity to be better. To grow. To learn.
The people I respect the most aren't the ones who have been handed everything on a silver platter or the ones who have found a way to keep themselves clean from the dirt and scratches of life. The ones I respect the most are those who experience disappointment, pain, and loss, and come out of it better than they were. And you don't get patience without it being tested. You don't become strong without breaking down your muscles. You don't become brave without coming face-to-face with your fear.
As much as we resist, the road to becoming like the people we respect is through adversity. There's no other way. Fortunately, even though we rarely volunteer for it, there's no lack of adversity in life. Unfortunately, we can get so wrapped up in the negativity of the trouble in our lives that we can waste the opportunity it brings with it.
Here's what I've been teaching myself to do when the you-know-what hits the fan, and maybe it can help you, too:
If and when trouble finds me--a traffic jam, an annoying person, a disappointment, a loss--I ask myself, "What can this do for me?" Can I use this to practice more patience? Can I use this to practice giving grace to someone? Can I use this to finally address my fear of rejection? Can I use this to lean on someone when I'd otherwise try to figure it out on my own?
In doing so, we can turn adversity from an adversary of good to a catalyst of better.
Rather than a roadblock to our hopes and goals and dreams, adversity can be the spark to ignite a process we couldn't or weren't willing to initiate on our own. This is how strong people build their strength. This is how brave people develop courage. This is how loving people find the depth to love well.
So please don't be offended if I don't pray for easy for you. I pray you make the best of the adversity that comes your way.
Don't keep adversity your adversary. Turn it into a catalyst.