Thanksgiving has always been the holiday for family gathering and sharing the day, meal, and conversations. This Thanksgiving will be different with little family around to celebrate together. Things have changed. As my daughters get older and build their lives, understandably it impacts what had been the ‘usual.’ In addition, my Mother-in-law passed away a few weeks ago. She has lived with us for the past 8+ years and her presence also drew my Sister-in-law and her husband, plus dog, to our house. What was 8 to 9 people, plus 4 dogs, will just be 3 people and one dog. Quite a change.
Prior to having our own house full, we celebrated Thanksgiving at my parents’ house where there always a crowd. A much quieter Thanksgiving will be a new experience for me; and I am not quite sure how I feel about it. An element of me has been lost. I have a new reality that I need to accept. I need to live into that reality.
My wife and I have been front row witnesses to the concept of a changing reality these past several years. As my Mother-in-law’s physical state decreased, we were always dealing with a new normal. To the point where my wife said in the final weeks, “the new normal is there is no normal.” We continuously needed to adapt to the new circumstances, changing our lifestyle accordingly. Her passing creates a strikingly different reality in which to adjust.
As an optimistic realist, I will choose to accept that change happens in life. There is little sense in fighting, as I can’t control it. I will be guided by the belief that life does not happen to us, it happens for us. It will guide me to where I should be.
When we have the perspective that life happens for us, we can stop battling all the things that bother us. We can accept that although things might not always go as planned; there is always a lesson to be learned, an opportunity for growth, even a ‘silver lining.’ This allows us to breathe easier, live simpler – understanding that everything is happening for our good. What lies within us is greater than any obstacle or disappointment we might be facing.
Facing these challenges is part of a bigger plan. Everything in life – the good, the bad, the sad, the disappointments, the embarrassments were placed in our path to help us get where we are supposed to be. The phrase ‘living into a reality’ is easier said than done, but it is possible. If Brian Cahill can do it, I certainly can.
Brian is married to my cousin and is the author of Cops, Cons, and Grace: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Suicide. The book is a very personal, emotional and intense story of his journey following the suicide of his police officer son. In his struggle to make sense of life and death, he looks for reassurance of God’s presence in his life. He finds these assurances through his faith, family, counselors and friends. However, his new reality leads him to volunteering with two different groups, coaching suicide prevention to police officers and leading a spirituality group for San Quentin prisoners serving life sentences. This brings him enough of a sense of peace and acceptance to want to continue living and eventually experience a measure of grace.
There is a beautiful quote from Baal Shem Tov, a Jewish mystic and healer from Poland, regarded as the founder of Hasidic Judaism: “Let me fall if I must fall. The one I will become will catch me.” The power to catch ourselves, is living into the reality of who we become. It is comforting and empowering, because all of us will fall at some point in our lives. My recent post on the Beauty of Losing offers additional thoughts on the gains of falling.
Not all new realities to live into are negative or the result of an undesirable situation. A fair percentage are positive changes. Living into these types of realities can be immensely joyful. I look at my marriage where I took on the responsibilities of being a husband and a new reality of a united life with my wife. The birth of each of my daughters created a new reality. A business example was becoming the leader on a team as opposed to an individual contributor. In all those situations, I couldn’t become who I needed to be by remaining who I was. There is a fitting quote by J.J. van der Leeuw, “The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved; it is a reality to be experienced.”
In Romans 8:1–13, after his warning in Romans Chapter 7 against the wrong route to holiness fulfillment, Paul points his audience to the correct way. Through the redemptive work of Christ, Christians have been liberated from sin and death. At the cross God broke the power of sin. Christians still retain the flesh, but it is alien to their new being, which is life in the spirit. The same Spirit who will resurrect their bodies at the last day. Christian life is therefore the constant challenge of living into that reality, trying to understand and grasp it.
In Chapter 4 of John’s Gospel, Jesus changes the life of the Samaritan woman not by healing her or doing anything practical to better her circumstances. Instead, he changes her life by changing the reality of her life. When Jesus asks this woman for a drink of water, he’s not treating her like a servant, he’s treating her like a host. It was a very counter-cultural way of empowering her. He invites her to live in a new reality by helping her to see that she can be part of what God is doing in the world through the Messiah.
Whatever new reality we face, we need to live into it. If necessary, we will catch ourselves. Life is happening for us. It is part of God’s plan and will guide us to where we should be.