Most babies come into the world a loud, wailing thing. And while we have no memory of the event, an old quote attributed to Mark Twain claims that it is one of the two most important days of our lives, the second being the day we discover why we came into the world a loud, wailing thing.
Our story begins on a Sunday morning—rays of light creep in through the curtain gaps where dust particles, once invisible, are made obvious to the inhabited world. In the mingling of photons and particles, the quiet of home remains undisturbed—this I call ‘the calm before the storm.’
The storm, of course, is the rousing and yelling and bickering that comes after Mom wakes the kids up for church, and the whole house erupts into a sibling banter of who showers first.
Conveniently for our story, it also happened to be a Sunday morning when I first caught this line of song from John Lennon’s Beautiful Boy, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
This headstrong, stubborn, persistent wave—the self-same force that makes witnesses of everyday people as dandelions sprout in between the pavement where it cracks and breaks.
That which fueled life after suffering as once Victor Frankl made up his mind to survive a Nazi concentration camp in order to complete his manuscript that would go on to become one of the most influential works of the post-war period (Man’s Search for Meaning) is the same wave that never touches the ocean floor. The same wheel that keeps on turning in the cogs of time.
It is life.
Life that insists on happening, whether the events that take place thereafter are within our plans or not. Whether we are around to bear witness to it or not.
I am a believer in Truth.
The Truth that remains after heaven and earth pass away (Mt. 24:35). Here, our worldly pursuits, principles, and demands summarizing the whole of humanity’s victories and great losses are made in an endeavor at grace.
And because we are alive, we are presented with many a great burden of choice. We will attempt to simplify the dilemma with a question.
Are we going to participate, expand our lives into something generous, or simply let life happen to us instead of letting it happen through us?
Whatever you choose, I’m sure you have tried to do something—a goal to strive towards, a personal skill to develop, you name it. But how do you respond to life when it’s pushing against your plans?
I come with tips in the trifecta effect, each one derived from my own understanding and experience of life, all of them wrapped in noble intentions.
Tip #1: Stay calm or at least pretend that you are.
In June of 2019, Dorset Police arrested Laurence Vonderdell for robbing a bank with a banana. Yup, you did read that right.
At the risk of being misunderstood, let me clarify that I am NOT in the slightest bit suggesting a heist using a banana—nay, I condemn the act entirely.
Reader, you must know by now that I always try to find the positive in the negative. I have four siblings, after all. It was either I acquired the skill, or my sanity would crumble.
I am merely trying to relate a lesson beneath all that mess—that sometimes, pretending to have something up your sleeve can be an effective and acceptable coping tactic when met with the uncertainties of life if, and ONLY IF, it is to reach a positive desired result. If you can’t stay calm, pretend.
Tip #2: Look at the situation as if you were outside of it. Life isn’t happening yet. You’re still observing.
When I was a kid, I was most fascinated by the slinky toy I won off a Whack-a-Mole game. I would hold both ends of the slinky as if juggling and watch the colors shuffle back and forth. The wave that travels the slinky takes its time.
And as we have used the metaphor of waves to talk about life, perhaps, it is a good idea to give events a travel time. Even though some things are instant, we can take a step back and look at the moment as it comes. Maybe a little bit, we can prepare for the impact when the waves slam through us.
Tip #3: Step back in. This is your life, after all. You can’t remain an observer no matter how attractive that sounds.
I love Timothee Chalamet’s hair. (And face, too.) But underneath his mop of gorgeous flowing locks is the metaphysical seat of an intellectual acuity that’s so ding dang dong awe-inducing.
So you see, dear reader, life is one grand and complex puzzle. It comes to us in different ways in equal parts beauty, equal parts pain. But as I have told you before, I believe in God and the Divine appointment of our place here on earth. How are you going to participate?