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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Life Stressors

I recently received an email from someone I know, but who probably cannot be considered a good friend.  I was a part of a small group who received this, so I knew it was not specifically meant for my eyes only.  Sharing some from this very moving email will not threaten her anonymity, so here goes. 
   
I first met her at conference-type occasion.  She was young, engaging, dynamic and even more.  She probably is about the age of my daughters, so I was impressed with her in the same kind of way my own kids impress me.  She was the kind of person who obviously grabbed the world by the tail and make her world deliver whatever she wanted.  She seemed to have everything going for her.  She was young---probably looked younger than she actually was.  She was good looking and attractive in almost any way you could name.  She was not arrogant, but she was highly confident. 
   
We lived far from each other, so I only followed her sporadically and from a distance.  She was not in my world and fortunately did not need anything from each other.  So when I got the email, I was not totally surprised, but I also did not anticipate what her words began to reveal.  For the first time, I began to get a sense for the real person inside that dynamo I had come to know.  The one who seemed fearless now clearly was feeling fragile. 
   
Her first sentence was a kind of lament, as if it were the first line of her own Psalm.  She confesses, “I used to get excited, a lot.”  She wistfully acknowledged that she was a powerhouse.  She could go, go and go some more.  I say wistfully, because it was clear as I read further into the email that something had changed.  She said it herself: “Then something happened.”  For two years she has been “laying low,” as she put it.
   
She offered a catalogue of things she no longer was doing, among them things like traveling often.  And then came a rather poignant statement; “I stopped chasing.”  This was followed by my favorite sentence in her entire tome.  “Major life stressors decided to have a convention in my life.”  That is funny, powerful and doubtlessly, painfully true.  She gave some detail to her personal life stressors.  Most of them are readily recognizable and are suffered by countless people around the globe all the time.
   
Of course, her words made me think and ponder my own life.  Anyone who has lived as long as I have and probably most of the readers of this inspirational piece have their own life stressors.  Life does happen.  And not all of life is fun and games.  In fact, a pessimist will conclude that suffering is necessary; some happiness is optional.  It is easy to get down and be tempted to give up.  This is normal.  Even Jesus had to confront these kinds of temptations more than once in his life.  I am sure all the religious greats had their own trials.  That goes with being human.
   
I would not have shared all this if the story ended her.  In some ways it is a classic story of tragedy to this point.  But that’s not the whole story.  I like the way my friend is continuing to unfold her life.  She says she is now “an observer of my life, actions and momentum.”  As I read further, I realized she is in the middle of what I call spirituality.  I loved the way she describes what is happening.  She notes that “I have been awakened to a new sense of awareness.”  That is insightful and deep. 
   
To be awakened is a classic way of talking about spiritual growth and development.  The image of being “awakened” is so powerful because of what it implies.  Before we are awakened, we are “asleep.”  Of course, we all know we can sleep and still be alive.  We do it every night!  But she is also pointing toward a metaphorical understanding.  It is possible to “sleep walk” through life.  We are tempted to see sleep walking in a slow, lumbering way.  But it really means living inattentively.  My friend and, probably, I have been an active, dynamic sleep walker.  We can be busy without being attentive.  We can even win, but not enjoy or appreciate it.  That is what her life stressors have done to her.
   
She says, “I feel reborn.”  What more can one say.  I would only add now that she is reborn, she is beginning to live a new life---a life of the Spirit.  She concludes her longish email by offering some suggestions about what she is reading and how she is restricting her life based on her new sense of awareness.  I find this helpful, but obviously it is only helpful for those of us who are ready to be awakened in our own lives. 
   
Reading her touching email and sharing the gist of it with you won’t in itself cause any change.  It’s a tough, but nice, story.  I hope to sit with it and ponder it.  Finally, I know her story is her story.  My own story is still being written.  No doubt, I will have my own life stressors.  The come with being human.  Her story helps me see that life stressors do not have to dictate how I respond.  I can also awaken.  I also can have a new sense of awareness.
   
It is through awakening and being aware that I can come to know the Spirit and to know that healing touch that the Spirit always brings.  That is reason for optimism---spiritual optimism.

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