Friday, January 22, 2016

Hope and Becoming Our Best Selves

In the last post, I talked about the ways that hope challenges us in a thousand different ways, and today I want to tell you why hope does that. It does it to help us become our best selves, because that's the combined goal of suffering, sorrow, heartbreak, hardship, hope, and love. These six things work together to produce the richest fruits in our lives in the same way that dirt, manure, earthworms, bacteria, water, and sun do for plants.

The Negatives of Life

Suffering is the dirt in which the seeds of our best selves take root. Sorrow is the manure that fertilizes that dirt, putting in vital nutrients the little seed needs to grow. Heartbreak is the earthworm that breaks the soil up to give us room for our roots to be able to spread out and grow. Hardship is the bacteria that breaks down the manure and allows it to be absorbed by the seed.

The Positives of Life

Water is the hope that keeps the nutrients flowing, holds us upright, and allows us to benefit from it all. Love is the sunlight that powers the whole system, keeping us growing and thriving and encouraging us to keep reaching ever upward toward it. 

The Unbalanced Ratio

Only two of those things are positive. Four are things that are "yucky" or undesirable in most eyes. But they are just as necessary to our growth and health as the rest. Those things are what help us produce our most abundant harvest. Life is like that. For every two pieces of good that come, you will find that four negative come with it.

But the purpose of the ratio isn't to discourage us, or to oppress us, or to hold us back. It is because this is the recipe that will produce the greatest results and allow us to become our best selves.

The Worst Moments Are Our Most Accurate Mirror

I happen to love Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. I've mentioned its role in drawing me back to the Catholic Church during my twenties. In that book, she puts one of her characters through some of the worst pain, torment, humiliation, and heart break imaginable. When she asked why she did that to him, she explained that it is in the moment he undergoes the worst that he can go through that she is able to reveal and refine what is best about him, his love for Claire. 

It is in the deepest, darkest moments of our lives when we are begging for the pain to go away and we'd do almost anything to stop it that we discover what truly holds value for us. What are we willing to sacrifice, and what are we willing to lose? How much do we love? That's the question that can only be answered with complete and total honesty in moments of suffering and sorrow, heartache and heartbreak. It's what we choose to do in those moments that answers the question.

Love Is What Makes Us Our Best Self

Love is the secret ingredient that makes us our best selves. It is what makes us worthwhile. It is what we were born to do and what fuels our mission, is the reason for our gifts, and it is love that gives us a message to speak to the whole world.

More than anything else, God wants us to love. He wants us to become our best selves, our most loving selves. And, like the author I mentioned, that means he must also allow us to experience the "yucky" parts of life in order to complete the work the good stuff begins in us. 

He Loves Us Enough to Allow Us To Suffer

Every person who has ever loved someone who is suffering knows how hard it is to endure. It's made even worse when you know you have to love this person enough to inflict the suffering on them for their own good. A parent who must deny a child in order to prevent them from doing drugs, even though everything in them screams out that this child needs their help. A spouse who must inject their lover with medications that are painful and that wreak havoc on their bodies in order to save their life. 

If you've never experienced that kind of pain, I suggest you write fiction. It will help you experience it, and I think we all need to in order to understand it.

In order to allow love to be complete in us, God must love us enough to allow us that ultimate opportunity to love that only comes when everything has been lost and hope flickers like a candle in the wind.

Hope Keeps Us From Giving Up, Leads Us To Stretch Upward

In all of this, hope keeps us from giving up too soon and robbing ourselves of the coming victory. It leads us to stretch ever upward as we try to reach for the sun. It is what allows us to take those nutrients and apply them to our situation to become the very best version of ourselves and produce the most abundant harvest we possibly can. 

My Own Journey

Around January 6st of this month, when it became abundantly clear that rent was not going to materialize and none of us had any jobs, I nearly allowed hope to be snatched from me completely. I broke down in tears (I'm not someone who likes to cry or who cries easily), and told my husband I just couldn't do it anymore. I wanted to give up. 

Thoughts of dying seemed welcome compared to what I was going through at the time. I curled up into a ball and slept after exhausting myself in tears. The next morning, I woke and realized I was an absolute and utter fool. I thank God for that bit of chastisement.

I was reminded of all the other times in my life when I have come close to some incredible break through in my spiritual life, when I have nearly obtained some long-sought-after answer to a prayer of mine, I have been put to the test and been sorely tempted to quit. Each time, Satan was trying to snatch the victory from me before the Lord could deliver it to me.

Several times, before I realized what was going on, I would let Satan steal it from me and turn away from God in anger or frustration at his seeming lack of response to my prayers, not realizing just how close I had been until much later. I realized that if Satan was working so hard to get me to give up and quit on life, the victory I was about to obtain must be monumental.

Then I prayed with gratitude in my heart, and realized that every single time I have received an answer to a prayer of mine it has come through suffering, struggle, hardship, or heartache. In fact, it was in those very moments that I would meet the person or reach the understanding or find the key that would unlock the door for me to make it happen. 

I began to connect the dots between the hope that has been mine for as long as I can remember with my gift for writing and my mission to teach God's children how much He loves them, and that is when I set out to renew my mission of service through Everyday Catholic. I settled on the message of hope, and decided to write about that.

As I wrote, it fanned the flames of my own hope and helped me to begin to see more clearly that God was transforming my life for the better. Two days ago I encountered a woman that led me to a new epiphany. This is a woman I would not have met, or had the opportunity to serve, if my job had continued as I'd hoped it would.

She said to me, in the course of our conversation, that "When  you find your why that makes you cry, you'll find the wings that let you fly."

And today, I found that why. I realized that when you connect your gifts to your mission and use it to spread the message because you know why it matters, you have the recipe you need to set yourself and the world on fire with love! 

More on Sunday
I will be at another pro-life march, this time in Austin. Come back then for more hope!

Popular Posts