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On Being Okay with Whatever Happens

On Being Okay with Whatever Happens

One of the biggest challenges of being a Christian – maybe even a human – is relinquishing control. I don’t mean personal control over things like the words we speak, our reactions or behavior, although, those can be challenging too. Rather, it’s the things that we can’t control, yet feel the need to “do something” about because we have a false perception that we can exact the change we need to see. Of course we can’t change the larger things like death or trauma, but we almost always want to shift other people’s thoughts and opinions. Because of pride and self-righteousness, we often feel the need to fix a certain situation, or at the very least, try to prove that our side of a matter is the right side to be on. We want to change someone else’s mind as a precursor to changing our own circumstances.

It’s so very very hard to have unshakeable faith that God has a bigger plan and the means to make that plan happen. He not only has a plan and means, but a purpose to make it all work together for my good and His glory. On a core level, I trust Him, but to have the kind of faith that is 100% solid all day every day, year after year? As much as I want to say that’s how I roll, it’s not accurate. By far. My ability to be obedient while waiting for Him to move tangibly can be difficult. 

Getting older and having more experiences that get you from the valley, through the mud and to the top of the mountain does make it easier to trust in Him. Still, some circumstances seem insurmountable and the urge to intervene is powerful. If I’m being honest, oftentimes prayer doesn’t seem like nearly enough, when in reality, it’s the only thing that can change the status quo. When I should be making prayer my first and only option, I tend to let rumblings of “why” and “what if” weave their way into my thoughts instead. My need to right the wrongs that prevent me from living my best life can be a thing. And it’s the thing that usually makes both my ideal and real life more troublesome. 

If you haven’t been here before, estrangement is the circumstance I’m writing about. It’s the situation I wish that I could change. That I could fix. It’s sort of a leap of faith putting this out here, hoping that my perspective will help someone else feel not-so-alone in their estrangement, but at the same time, writing this may also hamper any hopes of reconciliation. (See? Even if it costs me, I somehow feel this need to help someone else going through estrangement too. Am I helping? Do they want my “help?” I don’t know.) My very Christian-ness is one portion of the problem; there are surely many, many others but I couldn’t tell you what they are. I wish I did know so that, as I said, I could “do something” about the situation. But there is nothing – absolutely no thing – apart from prayer that I can do, so I’m slowly learning to be okay with whatever happens.

I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. 

Philippians 4:11 & 12 (MSG)

My hands are a little less full without one of my offspring, but I’m steadily learning to be content with that. 

If you’re newly estranged, I’m sure that thought of learning to be okay – and what “okay” means to you is entirely different from me or the next person – not knowing if your future holds a relationship with your child thoroughly scares you. What kind of parent would be okay with not having their child in their life? What kind of person seemingly gives up and stops trying to fix the relationship? What kind of person doesn’t keep loving their child as best that they can? What kind of person forges ahead choosing to live life to the fullest regardless?

For starters, choosing not to chase after my child doesn’t mean that I don’t still love him. I do. With all my heart, and I will love him forever. It just means that I surrender the situation. It’s completely out of my control. It has never been within my control. Too late in life I learned that I can’t control anyone else’s thoughts, behaviors, opinions, needs or desires. Just mine. Fruitlessly chasing after him isn’t what he wants and it does me no favors either.

It stands to reason that to live my life to the fullest means somehow figuring out how to do that without him in it. Do I wish that my son were part of that life? Of course. But since he isn’t, I refuse to curl up in a ball on the floor and let whatever time I have left pass me by. Been there, done that. In her book, I Wish I Knew, Irish poet Donna Ashworth writes that “those who wait, wait.” Simple, yet profound. I waited for…. what, exactly? I waited for far, far too long before realizing that things weren’t what I had hoped they would be. I hoped that he would want to talk things out. I had hoped that he would miss us. I had hoped that his life would be more fulfilling with us in it. Alas, that’s just not the case. I can’t wait indefinitely to nourish my body with food in order to stay alive, and I can’t put a good life on hold while I wait for something that may never come to pass either.

Those are cork trees in the photo at the top. If you look closely, you can see where the cork bark has been harvested. The bark is stripped off the lower half of the tree, leaving the trunk exposed to the elements, pests and more. This was a grove, but there are random trees like this all over Portugal, where cork is a major crop. It’s kind of crazy to see a single tree in someone’s yard that looks like this, but that’s how it is. Anyway, even with the bark stripped away, potentially allowing damage to the tree, they continue to grow. In fact, the bark will regrow and about 10 years later, the new bark will be ready to harvest. Like these trees, we humans who suffer a stripping of self can begin to heal and grow again. Even if parts of us have been peeled away and exposed, we can keep reaching for the sunlight, reaching for life.

I haven’t given up on my son. I’m just being okay with letting him live his life the way he wants to, as is his right. I’m learning… just to be okay with whatever happens.

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