Monday, March 2, 2009

Through the Glass Darkly

I love imagery. While reading a good book, I've always been able to picture the images hinted at compliments of a vivid imagination. Symbolic icons often help me understand important concepts.

One of my favorite scriptures possesses symbolic imagery. Taken from one of the epistles of Paul, it is as follows:

"For now we see through a glass, darkly . . . now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)

To me this means there will be times in our lives when we won't understand everything that is taking place, nor why it has to be. Those are the moments when we have to cling to faith and hope for a better day. And someday, possibly when it won't matter anymore, we'll comprehend why we endured a particular trial or challenging test. I think what matters most is how we respond to the set of circumstances during the traumatic event. Did we allow it to be a learning experience, using it later on to help others who may walk a similar path? Or did we allow this hurdle, whatever it may be, to block us from continuing on? Was it a stepping stone, or an obstacle? Often it is our attitude that determines the outcome.

A popular adage states that an optimist sees the glass half-full while a pessimist focuses on the fact that it is half-empty. Or to quote a poem I memorized in school years ago:

"Twixt the optimist and pessimist
The difference is droll:
The optimist sees the doughnut
But the pessimist sees the hole."

McLandburgh Wilson

During my adventures in life, I have tried to look on the bright side of things. I don't always succeed in this. There have been moments when I've thrown tremendous temper tantrums over
challenging obstacles. Like the time I was told that I had Graves Disease. Shortly after this diagnosis, I remember walking with a good friend, venting quite a bit about my unwillingness to endure this particular trial. Wasn't the fact that I was already dealing with diabetes and lupus enough? Did I have to endure this current affliction as well? I threw myself quite a pity party for a short time.

In an interesting twist, a part of me refused to believe that I had to deal with this condition, too. The stubborn part of myself came to the fore and I beat the odds. The Graves Disease faded into nothingness, kicking into remission on what I hope is a permanent basis. My doctors were stunned. They had told me from the beginning that I possessed a 1 in 1000 chance of winning this particular battle. They had been trying to decide if surgery or an interesting chemo treatment would be required to fix the problem. My vote was neither . . . and I won. Not necessarily because I was being a good sport about things . . . I just refused to believe that I would be saddled with this condition. I suppose it was the power of positive thinking . . . my version. =D

I am learning that thinking in a positive manner is one of the keys to succeeding in life. When we focus on the negative things taking place and ignore the good stuff going on, it can plummet us to the depths of despair and discouragement, two of the adversary's favorite tools. It takes courage and determination to rise above the dark thoughts that plague us all---the doubting fears that hold us back.

A few years ago, I experienced an extremely vivid dream. I know most dreams are silly nonsense, our mind's way to clean house, but I also believe that once in a while we can receive an important message through that format. This dream was one of those.

In this dream, I was making my way through a darkened tunnel with three others that I know and love. We were understandably frightened, not knowing what lay ahead, or if we would ever see the light of day again. Finally, we came to a sheer drop-off. Pausing, we looked things over, in agreement that to continue would be extremely dangerous. And yet, I was drawn to continuing forward.

It was pointed out to me that the cliff that descended below was made of glass. I was cautioned that I would be cut to shreds if I pressed on. I knew what my fellow travelers were telling me was true, but I couldn't ignore the strong impression that burned within. To find what I was seeking, I had to continue forward.

Shaking their heads, those who had been with me, turned around and trudged back the way we had already come. I stood, uncertain, contemplating all I would suffer by climbing down the cliff. Then, gathering my courage, I did just that. And it wasn't as bad as I had feared. I did receive a few minor cuts, but for the most part, I wasn't seriously injured. Turning, I saw the end of the tunnel ahead, something that had been out of view from the top of the cliff. I had found the way out of this particular tunnel by pressing forward, despite the risks involved.

Elated, I hurried toward the light that I could see, and walked out into the sunshine, where I was surrounded by loved ones.

I've reflected on that dream quite often through the years, especially when trials descend. I hope I will remember the lessons I have already learned and keep my face toward the sunshine, where all shadows fall behind, to quote Helen Keller. We do indeed live during a challenging time, but to my way of thinking, as long as we'll hold tight to hope and keep our faith intact, we'll eventually walk out of the darkened tunnels that lie ahead.

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