“Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change. We need to remind ourselves that God can change things. Outlook determines outcome. If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory.” Warren Wiersbe
It’s crazy the things you remember during the course of any given day, especially if that day has been filled with stressful situations and people. Take for instance these past few weeks as the summer continues to rage and race by. Having been reminded by a dear and lifelong friend, I have thought about an interesting practice of my fellow students in graduate school. We studied in a very old building that actually had brass doorknobs. During those wonderful years, two things never failed to happen throughout the semesters: first, they became tarnished and smudged and somewhat unrecognizable through the passing of time and sweaty and nervous use; second, something remarkable and miraculous happened around exam time. Most if not all those beautiful doorknobs started looking rather lovely and brilliant. You see there was this strange practice that when you got worried or anxious or maybe even afraid to face that exam whether it be oral or written that you started polishing your doorknob. It took your mind from academic (and other kinds of) worries and removed you away from issues and pressing matters that really begged and needed your attention. Now I don’t know if anybody did a study to equate the brightness of the knobs to the grades that were achieved during those days but I’m sure there’s some correlation. But if it’s not about grades, there certainly is another correlation that is worth noting. It’s about procrastination, that is about putting off important things when we have the time to address them with everything we’ve got. It looks like procrastination never goes out of style.
Take for instance an emotional and breath-taking audition in 2021 on Season 16 of America’s Got Talent. An amazing woman, who called herself Nightbirde, performed a truly remarkable song that she had written, simply entitled, “It’s OK.” During the course of the performance, we found out that this wonderfully bright soul had cancer in her lungs, spine, and liver. With poetic and brave confidence, she told the world that she had to keep going and her whole life-philosophy was summed up in a simple phrase: “You can’t wait for life to not be hard anymore before you decide to be happy!”
This really made me think a lot about life. It is of absolute truth-value to remember that we are all so much more than the bad things that happen to us. However too often, those painful memories or situations find themselves neatly (and not-so-neatly) tucked away and postponed. I began honestly bringing healthy attention to the things that I’m putting away or the things I’m postponing instead of spending the proper time and attention to figuring out resolution and/or accepting the cold truth that there may not be one immediately. They came crashing through the other day when one of my clients called to report to me that she saw somebody trying to actually sell her baby. Immediately we called the police who showed up with us so that we wouldn’t startle this poor woman who was obviously human trafficking her own flesh and blood. The good news is that everything came out OK. I distracted the woman by telling her that my friend inside the store would give her a free Slurpee if she just would ask for it. She must’ve been thirsty or perhaps not all there, but she handed me the baby while she went in to get the frozen treat at which point the plain-clothed policeman swooped in and took care of things. To make a very long story short and bearable I got to meet the foster parents of this child, a baby boy, and begged them that when he turned sixteen to please let him know that his life was saved by a Slurpee and not by anything more sublime than the caring loving people who may never have had the chance to meet him except in front of a convenient store while people were pumping gas and purchasing quick snacks for the road. You see there are some things that cannot wait. There are some things that just cannot be postponed.
When unexpected events thrust you into a time of change, and disruption and fear, it is a good time to look back on similar experiences and see how you made it through. Let me share a little of my own “turn in the road” I never saw coming and what it has taught me. For more than thirty-five years of my existence, I lived a very full, engaged, and zealous life, with somewhat of a predictable routine, daily at the helm of constant activity I found enjoyable and rewarding. And then, one day it was completely disrupted, executed by the worst kind of betrayals stacked upon betrayals and I found myself on a whole new path — unwanted, unknown and without a clue what the future would hold. The takeaway from my experience? “The change brought new life and invigorated my faith. It forced me into new professional experiences that were simultaneously challenging and uncomfortable, but also rewarding and the result has been an increased sense of resilience,” I recently wrote to my doorknob-days brother and friend. When I think back and hopefully inspire and help someone out there, I can say the following without a doubt: Life is funny. Just as I was forcibly removed from a community that I loved and that loved me back and as I reeled from the human trauma of that, there were true soldiers of human compassion and friendship that presented themselves in my life. Some of them were somewhat random. They weren’t exactly close friends before, but their love and caring lifted me up repeatedly and the repetition and persistence on their part was appreciated.
Forget the doorknobs of worry and anxiety: get to work and get to a life that must be lived right here, right now because that’s where God‘s grace and a ripe field of miracles await. As life continues to enfold for all of us, somewhere, life is right here, right now and because of people who live in the present moment, that little boy now has a chance to survive and thrive, and although Nightbirde has gone onto her heavenly reward, she leaves behind a legacy of courage and brave living. Remember that life is too precious to put off for another time. Your life is now. Just imagine the hidden but potential moments of greatness that are going to present themselves to you. Are you going to go out at full force or are you going to spend time polishing the doorknob? I say doorknobs are best used to open and close while life is meant to be lived in nothing short but awe and amazement.
The next time you reach for a doorknob remember that we can and must make the world around us beautiful and that will be our life. Ordinary minutes of every day present wondrous opportunities to make the world beautiful through love of family, acts of faith, lifting the spirits of others, being that soldier of human compassion for someone else and being a caring friend. Carefully, open that door.
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“Then, when it seems we will never smile again, life comes back.” Mark M. Baldwin