Yesterday, after a whirlwind Friday night with friends followed by an early morning 5K, I found myself on the couch after lunch totally zapped. I’d planned to watch a movie and nap, but instead found myself immersed in an intense multi-part episode of Iyanla Vanzant’s “Fix My Life”. Now I love me some Iyanla. I read her books as part of my healing journey when I was too afraid to read the Bible for fear I’d return to the hospital. The episodes were about a broken family of sisters, and I was engrossed in their battle to release the violence, abuses, trauma and shame that haunted them. As a person who is always in search of answers, the episodes undoubtedly sent my mind on a search for the reasons “why” I’d suffered so many emotional traumas. “You always have to have a reason for everything,” I heard my sister’s voice echo in my mind. “That’s “why” because”, I heard my dad’s silly childhood rebuttal to my cross-examinations. I’ve struggled with understanding why things happen my entire life. Somehow I think understanding why will help me heal my wounds and prevent more pain. And then I remembered my good friend Sonya Madison’s beautiful blog post “Getting Past Why” and realized that’s just not true. So today I am grateful for Sonya, and I’m proud to feature her as today’s guest blogger. It was a right on time reminder for me this morning that eventually we have to move past our pain and simply trust our journey. Enjoy!
After listening to a couple of educators discuss “13 Reasons Why”, I decided to check out the excitement. After five episodes, I got it. Life is hard, and we all have a breaking point. Now for anyone who adores drama and believes that my summation is a miscarriage of justice, then blame it on my life’s perspective. Whether it’s the bully in school, the relationship you can’t shake, social media, the job you hate, financial problems, or the person who either refuses to give you a chance or consistently mistreats you, nobody can escape the inevitable point of brokenness. But we all must ask ourselves, how do you get past what you either can’t control or can’t explain.
2013 was one of my toughest years. I was draining my finances to grow a broadcasting career. I watched my father’s health deteriorate and his body give up. I ended a long-term relationship, and I was enduring the growing pains of starting a solo practice. I cried so much that I couldn’t feel anything else. And to be quite honest, I was comfortable in my tears and sadness because anything else would have felt dishonest and forced. And while the thought of ending my life didn’t cross my mind, I was no longer living and often did not get out of bed. I woke up each morning and went to bed each night with one of two prayers: “Lord, please get rid of the pain.” OR “Lord, please give me a reason for today.”
But because I have a mother who worries, and other family and friends watching me manage my grief, I knew I had to do something to at least try to take my mind off of my losses. So I began a study on Moses with a small group of women. It’s funny how current life circumstances will direct your attention to certain messages. Or perhaps that’s just God. While I was familiar with the story of Moses, I didn’t recall ever discussing the events that led to his decision to isolate himself from his people. Here was a man, born a slave but raised in royalty, who avoided captivity simply by circumstance. And when he killed a man to avenge the abuse of his people, instead of the gratitude he had hoped, it further distanced him from them.
Moses was undoubtedly special considering his lineage as part of God’s chosen people, and his upbringing in wealth. Yet, he felt isolated between two worlds while belonging to neither. Therefore, his decision to ostracize himself to the wilderness was fitting. It was exactly what I wanted to do and did do when I didn’t fight to get out of bed. And when Moses did return to his people, it was not because he wanted to or because he was looking for a reason to return, it was simply because he was given a reason. “It’s not about you”.
I’ll admit, it took me a while to get that message. Even after the study, I continued to ask God to explain the reason for my loss, grief, unfulfilled plans, indifference, etc. But as I reflect back on that period, I see that by virtue of my question I wouldn’t have understood the answer. You see, I wanted the answer to benefit me, to make sense to me, and if it happened to benefit someone else, then at least I could see it and through that understanding or knowledge of someone’s growth, I would in fact benefit. I couldn’t understand life beyond myself. I couldn’t understand that I may never know why certain events happen or certain people are privy to opportunities that others are not or that just because someone else was able to achieve a goal doesn’t mean that by virtue of simply being or by my extreme faithfulness, I too deserve the same outcome. And by seeking those answers or even a reason for how my gains or losses strengthen me, my attempt at understanding was actually creating a world of constant disappointment.
Compare Judas and Peter. Both were disciples, both were warned they would betray Jesus yet both denied such event would occur. And as we know in the end in fact they both did betray Him. I don’t believe either set out to betray Jesus as it’s clear that upon realizing what they had done each reached their breaking point. But imagine if instead of ending his life, Judas, like Peter and Moses, isolated himself until he was reminded that this life was not about him. It’s not about never making a mistake, never feeling sad, never being persecuted, never suffering, or never feeling disappointment. In fact, all those things are guaranteed to happen. But instead of letting his story end with betrayal, Peter held on. And it wasn’t because there were roses at the end of his life on earth because indeed he went on to suffer persecution and likely died by crucifixion. But it is because it wasn’t about him.
Even if you’re not a Christian, you can’t ignore the heartache and often evil that exists in this world. Politicians and society in general, often preach that hard work leads to happiness and/or deserved success. This, however, disregards past and current slavery, genocide, sex-trafficking, hatred, or even like Moses, people born into wealth through no act of their own. This world is a constant mystery and even when you think you have it figured out, another “why” comes along. So my life has taught me not to be so quick to question. Perhaps understanding why was never meant to become our “happy” place. But then again, neither is death. So, how do you get past why? It’s simple honestly…. Take yourself out of the equation. It’s never really about you.