In an interview with Chelsea on Netflix, Shannen Doherty shares, from very personal experience, why we all need a change of mindset about life. This is what she says, with reference to her battle with breast cancer – and October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month: She says, “I think what is beautiful and bad and interesting about cancer is that it tears you down and builds you, and tears you down and builds you. It remakes you so many different times. The person I thought I was supposed to be or was going to be or who I thought I was six months ago is now somebody completely different. I realize, ‘Wow, I really thought that I was so brave and so gracious this entire time and really I was just hiding”.
I heard a different version of this same truth in a bible study group a few weeks ago from cancer survivors. Their struggle with cancer “forced” them to see life with different lenses on a daily basis. That is why Shannen can see something beautiful and ugly at the same time; something interesting and hard at the same time. And in that cycle one finds life and survival.
It is when we see life as lineal – as from birth to death – that we are burdened and even overcome with its transforming circumstances. Most of our prayers are petitions for removal of circumstances and situations rather than transformation through the circumstances and change of mindset. In other words we adopt resistance instead of acceptance.
Joy and peace comes from being broken and rebuilt; in acceptance and transformation.
A publisher invited readers – obviously aiming for potential authors – to share how they would complete this phrase: “If I told you my story, you would hear…”
Every person’s life is a unique story. That is why we say, we all have a story to tell. There are different ways our stories are told.
Writers are introverts; writing is their means of telling their stories. Whether they withdraw to cabins in the Poconos or some mountains in Colorado, or reflect while trekking on some trail, they are indeed searching to understand their story, then share with readers.
When you read the blogs I pen here you get a picture of my journey – in its many and varied facets. Thus when I blog on peace and joy, faith, hope, perseverance, humility and compassion, I am actually sharing my life experience and how I view it in those lenses.
And so, everyone has a story to tell. Are you telling your story? How? What are we hearing?
Write your comment here or send me an e-mail.
Most dictionaries give a two-point definition of perseverance:
1. A steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
2. The second has a theological input: Continuous in a state of grace to the end.
The French “perseverance” means persistence or endurance, while the Latin origin “perseverantia” means steadfastness or constancy. Since we have these ideas of difficulties, obstacles, discouragement and even endurance we may over-react into thinking of hardship, struggle and even misery. That is why the theological lens is so important.
Yes, patience and persistence is integral to persevering. It is an exercise and a state of being as defined above. And because it is state of being, it has a lot to do with mindset. When the focus is on grace, both in the now and in the outcome, then perseverance becomes joyful not torturous. We can endure because we believe and trust in the graciousness of our expectations.
It is in this mindset that Paul writes in Romans 5: 4 that “perseverance produces character and character produces hope”. Hope is pure grace and in it there is peace and joy.
In the Kichagga language of the Chagga people of Kilimanjaro the word used in greeting is “kaapho”. Literally it means, “be there”, and in question form it would mean, “are you there?”. This can be compared to the (South African) Zulu greeting, “Sawubona”, meaning, “I see you”, to which the response is, “Ngikhona”, meaning, “I am here”.
Kaapho and Sawubona, and ngikhona – and, indeed many similar expressions among different tribes of the world – carry profound deep meaning. Acknowledging a person, “be there”, or “I see you” signifies the totality of the person – personality, individuality, dignity, well-being, specialness, and so on. It is recognition in its fullest, devoid of negativity, reductionism, or lacking.
Think of it in contrast to the western expression, “how are you doing?” and even the more formal, “how are you?”. For, if we were to take the time to hear the responses that would come from the inquiry “how” we would certainly be overwhelmed! Typically, it is complaints about not feeling well, exhaustion from work, financial inadequacies, health issues and teenager challenges and so on.
What we learn from unpolluted humanity is that life is about being; it is experiential rather than performance. That is where all goodness proceed from.
If you asked me, “what is your favorite bible verse?”, without thinking I would say: 1 Peter 5: 7. It is the verse that comes to mind instantaneously. After some thought, I could, of course, come up with many other verses, but this one simply leaps up in my mind.
This is what it says – according to most translations: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”. Some versions expand “anxiety” to include worries, concerns, cares, and even fears. And that is true because anxiety can stretch very long.
But the point is: Is there any use actually, being anxious? Anxiety, worry, care, fear and the like are negative emotions. They stir up endless hypothetical questions which further raise the level of the emotion, worry breading more worry and fear, more fear and ultimately paralysis.
Worries and anxiety are borne of unexpected situations. Yet, nothing happens without reason or purpose – even the unexpected. The reason or purpose for the circumstance is what matters. Circumstances and situations are there to inform us; to teach and enlighten. In short, to transform us.
So, instead of praying to have a situation or circumstance removed, pray to be transformed by it.
I have affirmed elsewhere in this blog what the late Prof. Shemaryahu Talmon (1920-2010) suggested: that Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan could actually have been a parable of the Good Jew. My own convictions are prompted by the fact that Jesus’ call to action inevitably shakes and startles those he calls. He challenges us to move from a world of comfort to one of perplexity, from certainty to doubt, from safety to risk and even danger.
Here is a contemporary illustration: Over the past two or three months three or four congregations have been working and planning on receiving and resettling a refugee family from the Middle East. One family, but four interfaith congregations. Obviously there are complex cultural, social, and educational dimensions as well as legal processes. If you pause to think of the magnitude of human suffering anywhere – including at home – what emerges in this picture is a pursuit for efficiency rather than expediency. Certainty and the least – if any – risk!
The temple priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable subordinated human life to ritual expediency and we see Jesus challenging that mindset in his ministry and teaching. Be it Sabbath, dietary rituals or a man writing a “get” to divorce his wife, Jesus’ challenges his followers on a road not yet traveled.
That is the road a Jew would have traveled in the parable.
Here is another quote from Helen Keller: “Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties”. This is in alignment with another truth she pointed out, that “all that we love deeply becomes part of us”.
This is a continuation of the conversation started yesterday that we must have a vision, concrete imagination of what we want. (We’ll refine “what we want” later). And we are using Helen Keller as a fitting example of thousands of people who get to realize that creative imagination is power enough to conquer any adversity.
We pointed out yesterday too that we need to believe: Believe what? First that it is not impossible. Many times we talk ourselves out of our dreams because we either tell ourselves or believe others who tell us, “No! That’s not for you”; “It’s beyond your reach”; and so on. Either because of some present adversity or past setback, we convince ourselves to not pursue a dream.
Second, we need to believe in the vision. We are all endowed with a dream for something beyond ourselves – that is the passion without which we cannot find peace or joy. So, what is your dream? What is your passion? Think about this quote from Nelson Mandela: “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”. That is a good summary of vision, of dreams, of imagination.
When asked what could be worse than blindness – if anything – Helen Keller gave this enduring response: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”. How many of us could be going through life with full sight but no vision?
Vision is future-oriented. Indeed, vision creates what does not yet exist. You are probably familiar with Robert Kennedy’s often-repeated quote, “some people see things as they are and why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”, a paraphrase of George Bernard Shaw’s original from his 1921 play, “Back to Methuselah” (You see things; and you say why? But I dream things that never were; and I say, why not?)
Vision is the first step to creating the life and world we desire. It does not come about simply by hard work and achievement. It is first and foremost imagined, given form, then birthed. The other necessary ingredients are passion (a strong desire for the vision), faith (a strong belief in the vision) and action.
More on this later.
I arrived at 9 am for my scheduled physical therapy. The first thing my therapist did was to take measurements of my ailing shoulder’s flexibility. (It was pain and stiffness in the shoulder that prompted my referral to physical therapy). My therapist was not happy with the results; neither was I. They showed that I had regressed to the pre-therapy readings.
I did the prescribed stretch exercises for 45 minutes then we took measurements again. Excellent! I was back where I was the last session last week.
This is the enduring lesson: To maintain my shoulder flexibility, hence functionality, I must continually do stretch exercises as prescribed (or something similar). When I don’t do them I relegate myself to the category of disability.
It is equally important to similarly bear in mind that the even more important area of life – the spiritual – requires continual nurturing. It does not serve our well-being when we are so caught up with pursuit of everything external – wealth, success, achievement etc – that we neglect the soul.
Spiritual well-being is the beginning of the happy life.
Like me, you have probably been asked: “In hindsight, or knowing what you know now, would you have done differently?” Or, we may have mused in our thoughts what actions different circumstances would have prompted. And in some cases the answer has been affirmative, that we would have acted differently..That is because we have been informed by results or outcomes, and so our perspectives have changed.
What we need to bear in mind is the premise of the query, i.e “hindsight”.There is no hindsight until it is hindsight. At the time of decision-making there were only the circumstances then. We would have been informed by available knowledge, reason and intuition. We certainly don’t want to be reckless – or too risky – nor indecisive. And often while being cautious we may prove to be over-cautious. (Apart from politics, the now too familiar Clinton e-mail practices were probably borne of uber caution).
Since we will never have foreknowledge of the future we marshall courage to decide and act with honesty, integrity, good will and humility and be ready to accept and learn from the results, knowing that even if we would have done differently there is no guarantee that we will know a hundred percent, the outcome.
Don’t be paralyzed by indecision, act in good faith.