"…it was the worst of times." Nobody can quite prepare us for the worst times of our lives.
Sure, we've heard that life isn't easy since we were young. Someone says, "Life can be tough," and we furrow our brows, we nod our heads, we think, Message received, and we go on with our days. We hum as we go off to work or school. We dance slowly to the music playing in our cars. We graduate from high school or college and we take pictures and we assume that we'll smile and laugh and dream and love like this, always.
But we've had no class, no formal education to train us in the art of navigating pain, disappointment, tragedy, or disaster.
For some of us, these worst times make a grand entrance. They announce their arrival via a doctor's diagnosis. They shout through the phone and pierce our ears with bad news. They slam into our car at fifty miles per hour, ripping steel and shattering glass. They stop us cold in our tracks.
For me, these worst times have been more like a parasite. They made a stealthy invasion, subtle and secret. They fed on my blood and bones. They grew larger and stronger by sucking the life from me. Before I knew it, I was looking at a full-grown monster I didn't know I had been carrying with me and I didn't know how to get rid of.
However it happens, we will all have some encounter with these worst times. They're looking for us, and they'll find us.
They are not our friend. They're here to steal, kill, and destroy the life we have now and the life we were meant to have. They will do everything to knock us down, to squeeze the air from our lungs, to take us out of the race or at the very least, leave us paralyzed.
They will tempt us to think that they're in control, they have the power, they run the show now, they're here to stay, they'll get the last word.
Listen to me: That stops now. That stops today. They're wrong.
Even in the midst of my worst times--the seemingly endless storm clouds that loom in my skies, the constant barrage of stinging hail stones, the avalanche that has tried to bury me again and again and again and has made me want to tap out so many times--my best times have followed me into the darkness.
As much as my worst times have tried, they haven't been able to suppress my best times. These are the moments of calm in the chaos. These are the oranges and pinks of sunrise after the grays and blacks of night. These are the pillars that keep the ceiling from falling in on us and crushing us under its weight. These are the buds of green that break through the surface of scorched earth. These are the moments when we're caught up in that beautiful work we know we were born to do. These are the friends who inspire us, challenge us, laugh with us, and cry with us. These are the hands of mercy we lock fingers with and the faces of compassion that meet us in our brokenness.
These best times are the collective embrace of hope that reminds us that we can live our best lives even now. Even in our hurt.
These are the worst of times, but it's time we unseat them from the throne we've given them, overthrow their authority over our attitudes, our hearts, our hopes, our dreams. We're done with you, our worst times, no matter how much you try to keep your office.
We refuse to give you that power over us any more.
We refuse to let you hold us under your thumb.
We refuse to let you bury us, to choke us, to drown us in your black water.
Despite all your effort, we're here, still standing, still breathing.
These are our best of times. We choose to see them brighter, hold them closer, and place them higher than you. Try as you might, we won't let you steal one more day, one more precious moment from us.
Come what may, but we're done with you now. You don't get the last word.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us...
~Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities