I lost a friend last night; she died peacefully, surrounded by her family. And all of us, family and friends alike, are asking the question: “Why did she have to go like this?”
This life presents interesting challenges, to say the least. It is full of joys and hopes, tragedies and pain; many questions remain unanswered even when we reach old age. We try our best to make sense of it all, looking for reason, logic, purpose. Sometimes we think we can see it, but other times our faces are blank with confusion.
There are at least two ways we can deal with the events of our lives: we can accept them, or we can fight against them. I think we all likely dabble a bit in both. But more often than not, for me at least, I begin my reaction to negative events with rebellion, fighting against them as if I somehow can amass enough power to change things.
Rising blood pressure is common as we age, especially if our diet is the typical American diet. Efforts to control that pressure without medication can sometimes be helpful, but eventually most of us succumb to taking a pill. The same is true of cholesterol; in only a small percentage of cases can it be significantly brought under control by diet.
I fight these notions tooth and nail, and I set out to conquer my demons through any means available to me. But eventually I give up, weary and worn, and no closer to control than I was before.
By the way, I’m not suggesting that effort is futile in all areas of life (even areas related to health), or that our behaviors are not responsible for a large number of negative life issues. Indeed they are. I am all about exercise, and taking the proper precautions.
What I am saying is this: there are numberless situations and events in life in which the outcome is unacceptable to us. Not just disappointing. Not just annoying. But purely unacceptable. Some would add unjust, abjectly wrong.
We come out fighting, we vow not to be defeated, we intend to set things straight. But with time . . . we faint; weariness overtakes us, and we succumb to the harsh reality of WHAT IS. Eventually, there is acceptance.
But before acceptance we “kick against the pricks” (to use the Old Greek proverbial expression that described the farmer’s oxen attempting to go off the path, then being goaded by the sharp iron spikes intended to return them to the proper route). Our dukes are up, and we enter the ring with something resembling rage.
Life is not turning out the way we planned. Or (if you are religious) God does not seem to be acting justly and fairly in this situation. We approach the death, the suicide, the job loss, the chronic illness, the thwarted plans, etc. with our heels dug in. As if our objection might change something. As if our deliberate denial and nonacceptance of the event has the power to alter it in our favor.
We kick against the pricks, the sharp iron goads of the life-harness we wear, and it smarts. It smarts something awful at times. And the more we kick, the deeper the hurt.
Many persons of religious faith lose their convictions in these moments. Because whether we like it or not each of us has a “God of our understanding” (to use the 12 Step phrase); that understanding is the worldview you hold. Sometimes it may FIT the events of your life, and sometimes it may not. And when it does not – the conundrums abound.
“God is good,” religious folks say quite glibly sometimes. When often what they mean is that everything in life is making pretty good sense to them at the moment. But let disaster strike, then watch the antics they go through to explain the actions they attribute to God.
Could it be . . . could it be . . . just maybe, that we religious folks have created for ourselves a God of our understanding that is primarily palatable, plausible, and perceivable?
But not real?
I must ask myself how much I truly understand about the way the world works. I must consider that my notions of fairness and justice and love, although lofty and helpful indeed, may not be the benchmarks of the universe.
I confess that the issues of good and evil, right and wrong, are debatable topics. Granted! And I will not attempt to delve into my worldview in that regard in this blog (even though it would be extremely important and appropriate to do so). What I am wanting to suggest is that our serenity in life is in direct proportion to the amount of acceptance we can muster.
In many ways, life is a matter of learning when to fight, and when to acquiesce into acceptance, when to raise your fists in the air, and when to drop your dukes in surrender.