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Complexities and Troubles

Everyone who has kids or even grandchildren knows there are teachable moments when they are the teacher and you are the student.  Sometimes you are a willing student.  And other times you did not want to be a student at all!  I recently had one of the former moments.  I was not looking for it, but I was taught and was fine with it.  I was not unwilling.

To set the scene, you have to imagine a room half full of boxes.  A house project led to the accumulation of many boxes.  Of course, a scene like this is irresistible to any young soul.  My granddaughter was sucked right into the middle of the boxes.  You can use them as forts or a maze.  Some of them were so big you get into it and seemingly be lost to the world---or, at least, a parent.  Quite a bit of time went by in the wonderful world of box land.  Then she was finished and wanted to escape.

At one point, a young voice plaintively appealed for outside advice.  She asked a simple question.  “How do I get through this crap?”  The room was no longer filled with boxes.  They had become a problem.  They had been re-labeled as crap!  They were not entertaining any more.  They had become obstacles and the issue now was how to surmount the problem?

My granddaughter’s life had gone through a metamorphosis.  The boxes that had lured her into the space now turned out to be complex.  Added to this, they had become nothing but trouble.  The only question was how to deal with these complexities and troubles?  She realized fairly quickly that she needed help.  So she made the appeal.  And with good parents around, help came fairly quickly and her troubles were over.  That could have been the end of the story.

In some ways it was the end of the story.  But in my mind the story also took a different form.  I realized that it could serve as a metaphor for life.  Most of our lives have their ups and downs.  As we go through life, we go into “rooms” that can be like phases of life.  Sometimes the rooms have things that lure us to settle in and play.  The “boxes” can be any number of things.  Remember, it is just a metaphor.

There come times, however, when the room---when a particular phase of life---changes on us.  The phase of life may come to be nothing but complexity and trouble.  We can sometimes feel trapped.  We are certainly not having any fun.  We would opt out, if we could only figure out how to do it.  Sometimes it is ignorance that stops us.  Sometimes we are impotent---we don’t have the power to change things. 

I have been in these kinds of situations.  They can be of our own making.  I have done a few of those.  We get into trouble and then we can’t get out---at least, we can’t get out of trouble on our own.  We need help.  Sometimes our complexities and troubles come to us and we did nothing to cause or provoke it.  Again, we need help. 

I would like to think about this metaphor in a spiritual sense.  Life does put us into troubles and complexities.  These always have a spiritual side.  As I reflect back on my own life, two such periods come to mind that I can share.  One came at that transitional time when I went to college.  The other one came more at mid-life.

Dutifully, I went to college.  At some point during that initial year, I realized I actually did not know who I was or where I was headed.  College made no sense.  So I finally mustered up enough courage to leave and go back home.  Of course, that solved no problem, but it did give me time and a context to think about things.  And to learn to pray.  An older friend came into my life and became a spiritual mentor.  He solved no complexity and did not get me out of trouble.  But he helped me learn how to have faith at a deeper level and to grow into the person I was to become.  I went back to college and then some!  He helped me get out of a room of “boxes.”

The second time I will share came when I was diagnosed with cancer.  My girls were still young---one in diapers.  I did not feel particularly unlucky or that God owed me something better.  People get sick at all ages.  And my theology would say God does not give us bad things to test us.  Once again, I cried out for help and God came in the form of many friends and family.

Physically, I survived and have thrived for decades now.  For that I am grateful.  But even more grateful am I for all those folks who were there for me.  They would have been just as graceful and helpful had my fate been different.  Life or death---they would have been friends of the Spirit.  They helped me at a time when I really wanted to ask, “How do I get through this crap?”

We do not live in a perfect world.  We may enter phases of life that deliver obstacles and troubles and we ask, “How do I get through this crap?”  Very often, it is someone else who comes to our aid.  Often, it is a community.  Always I think it is the Holy One.  It is my experience that this Holy One typically uses others.  And I am always grateful.   

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