Today is one of those days I am choosing to believe (because deep down I do know it) that our choices are for the best and will prove to be fruitful in time. Over the course of this beautiful journey from California to Bahrain, Bahrain to Italy, and all the travel in between, I have learned, or at least am learning, how to challenge change in a staring contest and come out as the winner.
I was born a fighter, just ask my parents. From the time I could talk, I demanded the last word. I argued every decision and challenged every opinion. When faced with opposition, I dug my heels in relentlessly, and my family was convinced I would one day make a great lawyer. On the flip side, when provoked, ridiculed, or denied, I lost my capacity to fight and would either crumble to the ground in tears or seek solace behind a closed door (often one I had slammed). My mode of defense over the years was to fight for what I believed was right (or fight to be right), or to hide behind mind-made walls to keep the hurt from penetrating them.
Those early days in Bahrain, I fought. I fought against sadness and heartache. I struggled against comparisons and cowardice. I battled fear: fear of political uprisings and evacuations; fear of losing the self I had carefully and proudly constructed only to watch my identity disintegrate into a person I did not know and did not like. When I became too exhausted to fight, I hid. I built walls. I closed doors.
I went through the motions for the sake of my family, but I felt cheated. Stripped. Empty. I was simply unable to move forward to a better place, to the joys of experiencing another culture with its riches and diversity, even if it was a culture I dearly loved. I could see all that was good outside of my barricades, but I couldn’t get out to appreciate and relish it.
It was over a year until I took hold of the help and strength God gave me to begin knocking down the walls, facing the necessary pains of change and growth, and allowing the discomfort to produce a greater and more resilient character in me. “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” Romans 5:3-5
Months later, sitting with Josh during our 5pm “happy hour on the beach”, it dawned on me with such clarity that the person I was yesterday, and the yesterdays before that, wasn’t the person sitting on the beach. Fighting and accepting had transformed me into the person I was meant to be that day–and from then on forward. The person who would better process, face and embrace changes when they were most surely to come again. A person who has learned that building walls, slamming doors and hiding are best left in childhood. (Although, and unfortunately, I do still on occasion find satisfaction in a slammed door!)
As difficult as our move to Italy has been in this first month, I do feel I am indeed the winner this time around. Not one of us will escape change or stormy seas, and I believe the human spirit is capable of extraordinary things and meant for transformation.
“Facing storms and shipwrecks in our lives really isn’t a matter of if; it is a matter of when.So it’s time for us to get our sea legs under us. Rather than trying to avoid the storms of life, we need to learn how to get through them, how to survive them, and how to learn the lessons that we can only learn in such times and such places.
It has been said that you can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails. In other words, I can’t control all the elements of my world—or even very many of them at all. But I can control my reaction to them. I can adjust my sails—and adapt.”- Larry Patterson