Clearing Debris II……

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Debris

After the storm

“The tides of life are a beauty to behold on a cool spring evening but remember that like many of the elements of life, the mysteries of life can either be utterly devastating or be a panacea for some”-Ryan CC. It has been no intentional act of mine to take a summer break but in the light of recent events, I have been stretched in more ways than one and the frustration of realizing and accepting that there is so little I can do in the face of the many needs is quite a sore experience. Relieving quite a few people who were severe victims of the hurricanes has been an exercise with mixed feelings. Mixed because there are so many layers to life and when you unknowingly choose to disregard that fact, then sometimes the reminder can be quite traumatic. It is in times like these that you understand that sometimes not speaking is more of a solution suitable to circumstances rather than going full steam in expressing your regrets. A simple phone call to check on how another is doing means so much more than asking what the cost of restoration might be, wisdom is absolutely essential.

Why do I write? I write because I am hopeful that maybe just one person, whether you are going through your own storm or not; will find some strength and hope to persevere  through their storms. There are so many learning points, so many peculiarities in the experiences I have had and am still having on my life’s journey. Being a parent, I always say, is not a task for everybody most especially the ill-disciplined and those who lack self-control, because in order to give, you first of all must know what giving is and also have something to give. It is so easy to stand in your cozy den beneath the sturdy roof of your house, looking out the window and feeling some degree of pity for those struggling through the rains, battling with gusts of winds and more often struggling to keep an umbrella open while lugging your bag or briefcase around. It does not usually require an academic degree to empathize (for most people), but neither is a degree required to see a need and do something about it to the best of your abilities. It is your response or reaction when you are in the middle of your storm that to a very large extent lays out the default pattern for your choices and responses to the lives that you have been privileged to be amongst.

Taking a drive through the city, it is clear that we are on a long road to recovery after surviving Harvey and I am so grateful to see the resilience of the human spirit and the bonds of compassion that marks us as human beings . I use the word ‘surviving’ because it is about living and not about the ability to make or lose wealth. That is one of the many abilities we each have but again the degree to which it is used varies from individual to individual. It is on the basis of this that I always emphasize that just listening to someone going through tough times is always a first step in the right direction. I have all about lost everything that once mattered to me, and so that poignancy can be quite heart wrenching however the truth remains that just as synonyms and antonyms exist in words, there are always two sides to everything in life. Our definition of ourselves is usually marked by the side we choose to stand or the stance we choose to take, that is something that we either do ourselves or we are compelled to do and I wholeheartedly assure you that the latter option comes with more pain and grief.

Driving through the city, I am dismayed by the huge mounds of debris that line the lawns of homes, seen items that occupied opulent homes now confined to the anonymity of black trash bags; I have been into homes and seen the abject sorrow on faces as home owners still try to comprehend the devastation that they face. I have heard the sorrow come across in waves as friends relate their gut wrenching tales of having just enough time to grab their kids and evacuate the homes that they built through honest means. I can totally relate with that because my first house building exercise was in my late teens and I know the time and effort that went into it. I also recollect vividly the satisfaction washing over me when the house was built, the rush of joy that accompanied the utterance of the words, “Finally, it is ready!”. Regardless of how high you climb, there is always the risk of a fall but does that mean because of the fear of falling, we should not climb? Far from it, however knowing that with a climb, comes the risk of falling, we must endeavor to be careful in our climbs. Ensuring that we leave a kind word with those we climb past because they just might be the same ones who will act as a buffer when you fall. Remember to pause in today’s harried pace, and help someone along because although we each have our own paths, there will always be some intermingling with the lives of others and what we do when those situations occur is very significant.

Debris2

Clearing Debris

And because I have also been opportuned to have lost everything of material worth, I also understand the anguish that often comes with that loss. On the other hand, I have known the realization that losing it all does not translate to losing me but if I were to focus more on the pain of losing what was so painstakingly put together then I just may as well be in a court of law hearing the judgement of “life imprisonment without the option of parole” meted out to me. The cruel truth is that we so often define ourselves by what we ‘create’ (totally erroneous because everything we have is a gift from God, Our Creator) that we completely lose sight of the fact that we are all on a journey and no matter how detailed your trip planning was, you can never factor in the unpredictable events that characterize life. By our own flawed reasoning, we so often confine our lives to the tangible and give no room to the intangible, that it takes only an act of significant value to compel us to reevaluate our priorities. In the same manner, despite our skill in logical thinking and acute analytical reasoning, when the unpredictable happens and we are forced to watch in abject dismay as losses pile up, we become like the stalk of corn that is blown in any direction the wind chooses except we have our roots deeply planted in the truth of God’s Word.

I have learned that as long as you focus on the debris in the aftermath of a storm, you will be unable to see the new opportunities that lie just ahead. The debris after some storms are so highly stacked that it takes only a concerted effort with winded breaths to navigate through the debris so that we can catch a glimpse of what lies beyond. Nonetheless, our navigation skills amount to zilch when we steadfastly allow ignorance and lack of vision to reign because the subsequent result is there can be no joy or satisfaction that comes from fulfillment when we are not even moving. No matter how much you love your earthly possessions, when the rot sets in and the mold spreads, when the air around you can no longer be taken in, then you must clean house or else your life tale will be told specifically to the foolish to enable them gain some knowledge. After every storm, you must clean house – get all the debris out, rip out the sheetrock, get rid of that heirloom because until you do that, you will remain stuck in an island of decay, illness and death. For those who unwittingly find themselves on such islands, a note of warning – life and growth do not exist there!

I can say that things will never be the same again because they will not but guess what, you will be different because life’s processes either kill you or make you stronger, if you choose right. Your wellbeing is not a function of the amount of insurance claims you turn in, the efficiency of the insuring company or the amount of subsidies you are entitled to. Your wellbeing rather, is a function of the foundation upon which your life is built in and where your trust is, and there is no better foundation than a foundation of faith, faith in an infallible God who has got nothing but the very best of you. You are an image created in His Likeness and ultimately for His Pleasure and it is Him alone that everything else is subject to. It is okay to grieve but why grieve if you understand and acknowledge that for there to be a beginning, there must be an end. Grieving ceaselessly over the end keeps you rooted in a spot and as long as you stay rooted, you will not move on to the beginning of better things. It is in the middle of your storms that your foundations are tested and so it is wise to be sure of your foundation because when the storm hits (and it will surely hit), you will either crumble like a pack of ornately designed cards or stand tall and strong amidst debris but with peace and faith that can never be washed away by a storm.

Remember that the treasures that count for eternity can neither be found in the tangible aspect of the world we live in but are irrefutably located in the intangible aspect of life, so it is best to choose what treasures you seek and whilst you seek, take into cognizance that it will be foolhardy not to consider a suitable storage place too.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!

Clearing Debris….

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Sometimes it just seems like our lives are a kitchen sink filled to the brim with clutter- dirty dishes, dirty mugs, used and discarded cutlery. And a few inches above, a window cracked slightly open but with the sill in dire need of attention. More often than not, we do not even realize how cluttered we are until we are desperately in need of a clean plate for a meal that we so longingly crave, as pang upon pang of hunger hits us. Sometimes, we are confronted by circumstances that, had we been given an option, we would not even want to imagine it.

It has been about a week since Hurricane Harvey and although I’m careful not to write about trending issues, (life is more than a carpeted runway in a fashion show) this was a life transforming event for many. The very things that we want to know, in retrospect, have no benefit to us in the long run. Humanity is often clouded by hastily taken decisions, bordering on sentiments that have no lasting power and like the wisps of smoke from an extinguished camp fire, we watch helplessly as the smoke dissipates into the air. We long for the warmth of the fire after it’s put out and usually we are oblivious to the fact that right at the edge of darkness, a pair of feral eyes glinting in the dark is the only evidence that we have been spared from more than just the loss of the campfire.

In my opinion, it comes across as a slight blend of annoyance and irritation when in the aftermath of a storm, someone comes across and without tact, utters the following words beginning with “if I were you…..”. How on earth could you ever be me? That statement in itself is tantamount to ridiculing the order of existence. We are all individuals of unique capabilities and purposes, and therefore flaunting your naivety is not by any standard, a measure of intelligence. To this day, I recall how destructive a storm can be but amidst the storm, there can also be a peace that trounces the storm. In my sessions of encouragement, I usually reiterate how life transforming some events can be. Considering the transformation is probably going to be the content of the next post however how we deal with the transformation tells more about us than we care to share.

Summoning up courage to see the positive in the transformation, a transformation that we all must face in one form or another, is best experienced. It is easy to be cheerful when our bellies bulge with the cuisine of our preference, when our pockets sag with the weight of gaudy trinkets and gold sovereigns. It is easy to encourage another when there are no ruffles in our every day lives but what happens when the very things we inadvertently and often unwittingly depend on is taken away? When our brains freeze in distress and panic and the usual praise songs seem like a burden of irritation? Can we at that point, realize that clearing out debris from another’s house is way different from clearing the debris from our own homes. How effusive our condolences are when the mourning is another’s but the true definition of your values is seen in the nudity of our fundamental beliefs.

Driving around town and seeing streets constricted by the debris and unsalvageable items left in the wake of H.Harvey is yet another learning point. There is no rejoicing over that, neither should there be any guilt that nothing of yours was lost. The basic tenets of life are in full display in the aftermath of the storm. I see the sadness in the eyes of those who have been forced to lose houses, cars, antique pieces. I hear the hollow echo in their words as many struggle to come to terms with the fact that the house that has been in the family for generations has been reduced to rubble. The desperation that comes with the knowledge that there’s so much the insurance companies can do…..then is when the question should be asked, “where have you stored your treasures?” The transient treasures of this world lose value in the face of catastrophic events like receiving a diagnosis of an incurable medical condition. Nonetheless, it is not what we do with our blessings that is the real test, rather it is what we do when the blessings are taken away?

I recall purchasing my very first cellphone, a Motorola Accompli – I had scoured through newspapers waiting for that discount to be published. And when I added up the dimes and nickels, my joy knew no bounds as I pushed open the phone dealership to finally lay my hands on my dream phone. It had taken a significant portion of a year and almost all of my savings, but it was all worth it because now I has dreamt, woken up and achieved the dream. My moment of truth came as I was crossing the street with my new phone cradled under my arm…..”what would happen if my dream phone suddenly fell from my hands, and despite my best efforts, meet its untimely demise on the tarred road?” Shattered with no hope of being put back together, what would I do? That was the defining moment in my life because there and then, I realized that we are each responsible for the extent our blessings hold sway over our lives. That moment of truth shaped my life and regardless of how cruel this might sound, we need to clean out the debris and loss from the storms we encounter.

It’s not ungodly to be saddened by the loss of what we built with our hands but have we taken time to realize that its rebuildable stuff thats been lost and not our hands. There is no sense in battling the undertanding that till we let go of the old, we might never receive the new. It is only when we let go of what we have in our hands, that God can actually use it. And who can better the old but the manufacturer Himself? There is no insurmountable grief, no helpless battle instead there will always be you and I who have, for some unfathomable reason, refused to just let go. And till we let go, we will simply sink further into the bog. Behind every debris is not just grief and loss but there is also open space to truly delight in. Embracing the fact that we are able to trust One who has never and will never hold back the very best for us. We might not see the best as we look at the clutter in our lives but we must look beyond to enable us receive that which will always be His best for us. It is not about us putting the puzzle together, it is more of letting go and letting Him and even if we do not understand now, there will come a time and place where the fullness of knowledge will come upon us.

עד ניפגש שוב, תן את היופי של ארשת פניו לזרוח עלינו!

Adios!