Saturday, May 26, 2012

Ruin is the road to transformation

Ever been in a place of life when it appears like all that surrounds you is coming apart?

Life has an amazing way of teaching us the value of things without putting a price tag upon it. As we become more exposed to life’s challenges, we have the option of imbibing them and thus adding to the value of that experience, or excluding their intrinsic value from our life, making us the poorer for it.

Here in New Zealand, we are still in the re-building process from the Earthquake over a year ago now and still daily experiencing after shocks. Our neighbors in Japan are too starting all over again. That sinking feeling that sucks out the life from within, is slowly being replaced  with the will to live again. However, earthquakes of a personal nature effect people all over the world day by day. The loss of a loved one, relational breakups, ill health, financial ruin and hardship are all part of the personal landscape that shapes our present and for many our future. Its not the amount of rubble that takes out breath away, its the loss of normalcy. Things never return to normal, the horizon changes but new things come into focus that paint a new horizon. The paint brush is still in our hand even though the canvas has changed, we should begin to repaint the horizon that is our future.

“Bottom line is, I didn't return to Apple to make a fortune. I've been very lucky in my life and already have one. When I was 25, my net worth was $100 million or so. I decided then that I wasn't going to let it ruin my life. There's no way you could ever spend it all, and I don't view wealth as something that validates my intelligence”. Steve Jobs

Most of us have grown up in a social environment, conditioned to strive for success. So powerful is that environment, that we view failure as being detrimental to our life and thus to be avoided at all costs. Sadly, when failure does come (and it does), we see it as being a negative experience and an indication of our weakness. Is failure a negative experience? If so, then on the contrary, is success always positive?

“Fortunately analysis is not the only way to resolve inner conflicts. Life itself still remains a very effective therapist”. Karen Horney

Even our spiritual values are often aligned to this philosophy. We are taught that the sign of favour is a blessing and our lack, a curse. Taking this concept to its ultimate conclusion, we may view our surroundings as the litmus test of our standing with God. When things go good, we are in Gods favour, when things go bad we have stepped out of His favour. The truth is, success and failure are all part of the development of character through an inner awareness of our self and our God.

The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them... Whether you find satisfaction in life depends not on your tale of years, but on your will. Michel de Montaigne

As a child, I recall my mum warning me of going too near the stove. I had a child’s awareness of consequences and curiosity. I accidentally pulled a kettle of boiling water onto myself. It resulted in my hospitalization and years of surgery visits. I still bear the scars today and the memories of the events are not positive.

“God will not look you over for medals degrees or diplomas, but for scars”. Elbert Hubbard

"The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction." Charles H. Spurgeon

Everything in life is fleeting. Here for a season and after it has left its mark, moves on to endow its wisdom and understanding on yet another unsuspecting person. What we consider as successes, may not be there tomorrow. On the contrary, the same can be said of our failure, our worries, anxieties, fears and feelings of inadequacies. Despite our scars, we can rebuild our lives, but the essence of the rebuild is found in embracing the ruins.

“Anyone who cannot come to terms with his life while he is alive needs one hand to ward off a little his despair over his fate... but with his other hand he can note down what he sees among the ruins”.  Franz Kafka

There are some powerful lessons to be learned from tragedy. Being vulnerable yet able to count the cost amongst the rubble is but one. In order to rebuild, we must first be willing to accept that the ruins form part of the building process and the view, when completed, will be unique. Scars and all.

“You can't change the past, but you can ruin the present by worrying about the future”

"Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell. Isaiah 58:12

Recently, I watched a movie called “Eat Pray Love”. It touched a raw spot in my life and reminded me of several experiences I had endured on my journey in life. I love the fact that actors can stir our emotions to act. There is a pivotal point in the movie when the key character (Julia Roberts) makes a personal discovery on her sojourn, whilst in Rome. It resonated with me on many levels, but none so more than the empowerment that comes to us when we realize things change constantly and much of that change is out of our control. How we respond when the dust settles, determines how we build out of the rubble.

“A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it along with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins? It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked around at this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.
Eat Pray Love

Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light. Helen Keller