Louis Zamperini was a person of faith, even though he lost his way at times. When I read his amazing story and watched the movie Unbroken—about how he faced trauma, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and alcoholism—I could relate. And, like Zamperini, faith has played an important role in my sobriety, and my life. However, Louis’ life was definitely more dramatic than mine has been.
Louis became an Olympic track star and then a military officer in World War II. His plane was shot down, and he survived for 47 days on a life raft in the middle of the ocean. Then, he was captured by the Japanese and tortured as a prisoner of war.
HOPE AGAINST HOPE
“To hope against all hope” means we hope for something even though it is impossible to see how it could happen. When Louis and his comrade had been adrift in the raft for several days without water, there was no rain in sight. Yet, against all hope, he prayed and promised God he’d commit his life to Him if He’d send rain. The next morning, there was a huge downpour. The very definition of faith means to believe in that which we cannot see.
TRIALS CAN DEEPEN OUR FAITH
Zamperini endured many difficult trials. We tend to think that life would be great if we didn’t have to deal with trouble and pain—if everything could just be easy. Yet, if that were the case, we wouldn’t be able to learn and grow in faith. I have often wished I didn’t have to go through the trials I have faced. Yet, I have to admit, I am so grateful for the strength and increased faith I have gained because of my challenges. “No pain, no gain” applies to faith.
FAITH REQUIRES PATIENCE
Only three men survived the plane crash, and only two lived 47 days at sea. It was Zamperini’s faith and persistence that helped pull them through. However, at some point during the two years he was a prisoner of war and frequently beaten by a guard called “the Bird”, he lost faith. He questioned how a loving God could let such things happen. After returning to the United States and getting married, he still felt like God had been “toying” with him. He began drinking heavily and got angry whenever his wife went to church. Four more years passed before Louis returned to church where he remembered the promise he had made to God before it rained. Then he went home and emptied out all the liquor bottles in his cabinet. He never had another drink. Even though it took years, Louis still managed to find faith again and it helped him overcome.
FORGIVENESS INCREASES LIGHT
For years after the war, Louis longed to hunt down the Bird to get revenge. With divine help, he finally found freedom from his prison of hatred. When he learned of the Bird’s death, “something shifted sweetly inside of him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was finally over.”* For me, it has been important to realize that my hatred for those who committed serious sins against me was only hurting myself. And forgiving them didn’t mean they were being “let off the hook.” It meant that I was being released from the strongest emotions that held me bound to them—vengeance and hatred. It takes time for us to heal and reach a place of forgiveness. When we do, we often find those dark places in our heart and mind can finally be illuminated by divine light.
*Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken. New York, New York: Random House, 2010, p. 386.
Laurie Campbell is a copywriter for advertising, as well as a volunteer counselor with a masters in mental health counseling. She finds photography and nature go hand-in-hand, increasing spirituality and love for God’s pretty amazing creations.
Some 18 years ago I was filming life in a village about twenty kilometers inland of the Bay of Bengal. It sounds romantic, and it was…except for dysentery. We were with a small humanitarian group who had been petitioned by one of the village elders to make the trek from America to his tiny village of Vuudi Mudi. We tagged along to film. Little did we know about rural India: the bad roads, the lack of transportation, no infrastructure, no health care, mud everywhere.
We were greeted by a roadway into the village lined with painted white stones. A banner hung on poles welcoming us, and there were strings of flower petals everywhere. We were the first Americans to visit the village in nearly 50 years. The bus stopped at the center of the village, a small Hindu temple that was not much more than a concrete pergola. All 400 villagers gathered to see us. Their joy and fascination were overwhelming. There was dancing and music on makeshift instruments and everybody wanted to hug us. It lasted deep into the night: the women in layered, flowing colors of bright saris, little kids in cloth shorts or skirts, brass ankle bracelets that kept rhythm with drums and 3-stringed instruments and a cacophony of dented bells, brass horns and rhythm sticks. The night was clear. Coconut trees seemed to bend in on us. We were exhausted. They begged us to share some music of our own. We promised we would have a number ready for the next night and collapsed on the cement floor of a tiny hut. We woke to 30 or more children smiling at us through the window. It was cold. The sun was glowing through the damp haze. It was like waking up in the middle of a 3rd grade classroom. I quickly became attached to one boy in particular. We nicknamed him Coconut because his head was shaved due to lice. He had a deformed hand from falling in the fire as an infant. But his smile could light up the Ganges at night.
Our task was to film daily life: coconut harvesting, fabric dyeing, traveling vendors weighed down with baskets or brass. Our film crew of three bought a whole stock of bananas for breakfast. The vendor kept shaking his head at his good fortune. Coconut led the way, wrangling the other kids and proudly carrying our gear. We tried to pay him but he wouldn’t take so much as a banana. It was his honor to help, he told us.
As soon as the sun began to drop, villagers began gathering at the temple to hear the Americans perform. We had a guitar with a crooked neck and four strings. It was probably the first live performance of Beetles songs in a Hindu temple since the Fab Four visited the Maharishi. We sang the three songs we knew over and over while the kids laughed and danced.
Two days later we were walking the twenty kilometers to the Bay of Bengal for a huge Hindu celebration. Thousands of people thronged the streets. In the early morning it was a river of color, a procession that made its way to a courtyard to picnic and wait for their turn to walk through the temple, light incense, drop flower petals in reflecting pools and thank the gods for their good fortune. These were people who lived two seasons a year; the harvesting season where they worked long days, and the monsoon season, where they waited out the rains in dreary grayness. Their faith was remarkable. Even though they often had to rebuild their homes when the monsoons ended, they had faith that when the storms lifted, the gods would smile on them once again. And so they made the pilgrimage each year to express their gratitude. Most people lingered for days, sleeping around fires and visiting friends from other villages. I sat with a group of children who were listening to one of the village elders tell stories. Through a translator I got bits and pieces of one of the tales, the story of Dhaka Sietma. For many families, the trek takes days. They often travel at night if it is too hot during the day. Children grow nervous about being left behind and falling asleep in the dark. The elder was explaining what happens to such children. Before morning, Dhaka Sietma, a kind of goddess of lost children, collects all of the sleeping children along the roadside and places them by the warm fire of their families.
The morning we left the village, we found Coconut in the same place we found him every morning—curled up on the cold ground outside our hut, his legs pulled up close to his body and tucked under his ragged shirt to keep warm, waiting to carry camera gear. He insisted on serving us and we could do nothing about it. He would never come inside the hut, never take a sweatshirt or a blanket or even a woven mat in the cool evenings. We had even offered to buy him a bottle of Fanta from a roadside shack, a treat I’m sure he’d never had. His service to us was a great blessing he told us, and refused the drink. I have also come to suspect that he didn’t want to elevate himself above the other children in any way. His faith was all he needed–the assurance that whatever the seasons brought, all would be well. No social promotion could replace that. His gratitude, humility, and willingness to serve were the manifestations of that faith.
As a single person, I often have that visceral reaction to said holiday in February. Sometimes I wonder why I react that way. Sure, it’s often a reminder of what I don’t have, the gratuitous PDA, the boxes of chocolate with mystery centers that no one actually likes, the crushed expectations, and so on. But if I’m honest, sometimes it’s the idea of a relationship itself that triggers the rejection response.
You see, I hate risk. I don’t like roller coasters because of the out-of-control feeling. I don’t even like the game Risk because I hate staking my success on shaky odds. CERTAINTY. That’s what I’m about. But lots of things in life aren’t certain, and relationships are one of them. Frankly, as much as I say I feel lonely sometimes, when it comes down to it, being alone feels easier—or at least safer—than letting someone in. Granted, in dating relationships there are measures to keep yourself safe from physical and emotional abuse, but in any relationship there will ALWAYS be risk that you cannot control, and it’s that inherent risk in a relationship that makes me shy away.
Thus, I’ve come to realize that love—relationship—connection—requires faith in a few ways.
1. Faith in the value of connection.
The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV), “substance” meaning the “reality,” “the material part” (King James Dictionary). So faith is the concrete action that aligns with a belief in something greater than self. Faith in a relationship context is being willing to step into a place of uncertainty, because it’s in that space that a relationship has the opportunity to grow. Connection is the purpose of our existence, and we must risk pain with the belief that caring for someone is worthwhile, no matter the outcome. That belief helps us have the courage to step into that place of uncertainty.
In one of the first conversations of a recent relationship, I was fighting the tidal wave of fear that made me want to run for the hills when the thought came, “You can’t learn what you need to learn by yourself.” I can’t figure things out on my own and then step into the perfect relationship—it doesn’t work that way. We cultivate connection by moving forward in relationships with people and working on issues that come up in the process.
2. Faith in the power of my process.
I told the boy I liked him…and then immediately panicked. I can’t do this. I need more time. How do I know if I can trust him? The uncertainty and vulnerability of that first step was almost too much for me to handle. In those panicky moments I had to get curious about why I was reacting that way, and it led me to recognize the source as some deep-seated pain that I’ve been sitting on for a long time. I was grateful for loving friends that talked me out of running away and helped me feel my way through the pain to address the core issue. Getting at the root of those problems that block connection requires faith that facing the pain will get you where you want to be.
3. Faith in constant sources.
The ability to exercise faith is certainly influenced by the character of the person in whom you place your faith. I find that my faith in God, He who never turns away, gives me the foundation I need to be able to exercise my faith in relationships with other people. The strength of my relationship with Him determines how much I am able to stay open and vulnerable to other people, because if I base my worth and security off my inherent worth as His child, I can weather the storms of relationships with less perfect beings.
And so I move forward. I’m still scared sometimes, but if I value connection, believe that my process will work, and trust in a higher power, then this is what I have to do. If I want my life to be rich and full of meaning, I have to take a chance on people, because it’s only then that I can experience the exquisite sweetness of connection that comes from two people taking a chance on each other.
Ariel Szuch is a word nerd, writer, and compulsive reader who finds purpose in a life of faith.
Ever wished you could speed through certain phases of your life? As a kid, I often imagined this possibility. I pictured using a gigantic TV remote to fast forward through the parts of life that were boring, stressful, frightening or mundane and skip ahead to “the good stuff.” Looking back, I’m grateful I didn’t have access to such a remote. My life would have consisted entirely of Christmas mornings and birthday parties; there is so much I would have missed!
Although now I can admit that wielding a gigantic TV remote might not be the best way to approach life, I sometimes catch myself drooling over the exciting lives depicted on social media or in movies, forgetting the fact that these are merely highlight reels, lives that have been distilled into a thick concentration of thrill.
It’s not real life.
Real life is made up of brushing your teeth, running late for work, and washing dishes over and over again. Real life is t-ball practices, long grocery lines and sitting at a desk from nine to five. Much of real life can be pretty monotonous. But in spending all our time wishing and waiting for the thrills and trying to evade the monotony, we attempt to fast forward through real life and begin to view the daily grind with contempt. Faith, however, provides a better perspective. With faith we find meaning in and even celebrate the humdrum of daily living.
Ironically faith, or belief in the unseen, is all about vision. Faith allows us to “see” what normally goes unnoticed. In this case, faith can help us see inglorious monotony with gratitude.
Stop Taking Life for Granted
A few years ago my family took a trip to France. While visiting a small town outside Paris, we drove past a beautiful but non-famous chateau. I was in awe. Looking around, however, I realized that no one on the streets seemed to care. They were all busy carrying their groceries, listening to their iPods, and considering their unpaid bills. For those who lived in the town, this was just another monotonous day. Incredulous, I began shouting, “You live next to a castle! Don’t you care? You’re missing it!”
I wonder if God ever feels the same way about us. Are we seeing life’s chateau? Or are we missing it?
Develop an Alternative Perspective on Growth
Sometimes things feel monotonous because we cannot see progress. We seem to be metaphorically punching a wall over and over without noticeable effect. Perhaps it’s our perspective that needs an update. A change in perspective allows us to recognize that even if the wall is not coming down, our arms are getting stronger.
See How Far You’ve Come
Even grand adventures like swimming the English Channel or hiking Mount Kilimanjaro require repetitive steps. We call this diligence, persistence and tenacity. Grand vistas and epic photo ops are exciting because they are the culmination of previous perseverance. Faith reminds us that each forward step matters. There is a majestic vista ahead of us.
By choosing to view our lives through the lens of faith, we can choose to believe that our small, simple, albeit mundane, actions matter. Rather than distract ourselves from life’s monotony, we can remember that each moment is a gift, given by God for a reason. There is always something to learn, appreciate, work at and celebrate. Why would we want to skip to the good stuff? It’s all good stuff!
Erin Facer is a graduate of Brigham Young University and proud southerner. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes Gratitude Shows Up Late
Like anyone, I’ve had times in my life when it was hard to be grateful: like the eight or nine months as a poor newlywed living in an ancient camping trailer, in a blustery RV park, surrounded by sand—nearly every morning we woke up with sand in our teeth; or the time I sat helpless in the hospital next to my concussed 11-year-old after she suffered a terrible accident at recess; or when I went through a faith crisis and began to deeply question my religious beliefs. Gratitude doesn’t always come easy; in my case it has shown up months and even years later.
Gratitude Can Take You Places
Life has its lean times, physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. But by remembering that the lean times are opportunities for learning, growth, and development, it becomes easier to feel grateful.
Gratitude can also be an incredible tool for life, if you’re able to keep pride from getting in the way. Gratitude is a launching pad for future growth. For example, if you lost your job, would you spend time being angry at the company or person that let you go, or would you focus on being grateful for what you learned during your employment? The first approach is a solid dead end; but the second approach can really lead somewhere.
The Superpower of Gratitude
We’ve all been around thankless, pessimistic folks. It’s hard to walk away from an encounter with an ungrateful person without feeling a subtle emptiness, like they’ve taken something from you. But if ingratitude and thanklessness leaves us feeling empty and closed off, we can be sure that gratitude and a thankful heart are their shining, glorious opposites. Consider the following:
- Gratitude is attractive. People, who express gratitude for the simple things, like majestic sunsets or their love and appreciation for others are emotionally and spiritually attractive and they’re just plain nice to be around.
- Gratitude strengthens faith. Being grateful has a way of opening up your heart and mind to the goodness surrounding you. It’s a positive, optimistic force that helps you believe that things will always work out for the best. Trusting that there’s a higher power out there that wishes only to bless you and strengthen you, can go a long way in building faith that lasts.
- Gratitude is disarming. When someone is angry, expressing gratitude and appreciation for them can take the edge off of their anger, validate their feelings, and help them calm down.
- Gratitude can serve as a reset button. When you’re hung up on the challenges and injustices of life, gratitude can help you refocus on what’s really important.
- Gratitude gets easier. Like anything, finding things to be grateful for can become second nature when you practice.
- Gratitude makes you more receptive to goodness. A focus on gratitude can help you suddenly appreciate things you haven’t noticed before: your best friend’s contagious smile, the happy wag of your dog’s tail, a refreshing rainstorm—anything! Goodness is everywhere.
- Gratitude helps others see the bright side too. Your optimistic example of pointing out goodness can go a long way for everyone in your circles. Don’t hold back; talk about what makes you laugh, all the things you like, or just good things that happened to you throughout the day. You’re sure to lift someone and make them smile.
Better Late Than Never
I now look back with gratitude for the sand in my teeth because the love of my life was right there with me—and he had sand in his teeth too. I look at my happy, healthy daughter and my heart thrills that she’s still with me, and leading a normal life. Each week I attend my local congregation and I’m thankful for the wonderful gift of being able to choose what I believe. Over time I’ve learned that there’s something special to cherish in every moment and that learning to be grateful is a lot like having an emotional superpower.
Linda Clyde is passionate about faith and the power it has to brighten lives. She’s a wife, mother, writer, beautician, and above all, a believer. Contact her at email@example.com
Abraham Lincoln once said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Like Abraham Lincoln, I know that I too will be forever indebted to the beautiful woman I call mom.
When I think of why I choose to have hope in times of darkness, my mind undoubtedly always takes me back to my childhood. Before she even reached the age of 30, my mother found herself—despite her most valiant efforts—a single mother of two little boys and her infant daughter. My father chose to stray from his family and pursue a care-free lifestyle, leaving my young mother with no money, no car, and a pile of ever-growing payments and unanswered questions to tackle completely alone. She thought that surely God knew how much she loved her husband, even if he no longer seemed to value her, her children, or her marriage. She read her Bible and prayed faithfully, and at times found herself asking God why he was punishing her when she tried so hard to be good.
I recently asked my mom how she did it, and most of all, why she chose to have hope when she felt completely and entirely abandoned. My mom recalled one particularly trying day where she was in agonizing pain from having had her appendix burst, no money to buy groceries to feed her three small children, and found herself in so much despair that her small frame was wasting away from the darkness she thought may consume her.
While driving down the hot Las Vegas freeway one day in a vehicle a beautiful friend had loaned our family, she heard an audible voice tell her, “It will all be okay.” My mother knew at this time that God hadn’t turned his back on her or her three little children, but rather he removed her from what would have been a lifetime of darkness. She knew that having faith in the future wasn’t going to be easy, but that it was her only lifeline—and oh, how she needed a lifeline. From that day forward she vowed to give her cares to God because if she didn’t the internal despair would destroy her and she had to be strong, not only for herself, but for her children.
I remember at a very young age being keenly aware that my mother was someone special. I saw her day in and day out give the best of herself in order to provide my brothers and me the brightest future she could. I know that I will never understand the depth of her pain. But just like Job in the Bible, God trusted her to endure. He knew she would not only endure the trials, but that she would emerge even stronger than she was before because she had hope and believed in good things to come.
I am so grateful my mother taught me at such a young age that your only choice is to have hope. When it feels like we are walking entirely alone, when we want nothing more than to crawl into a ball and not face the weight of the world, or when those who are supposed to love us the most betray us, there is always someone much greater than us who knows our hearts and loves us deeply. He knows our pains. He loves us perfectly and as hard as it may feel sometimes, He asks us to trust Him. I choose to have hope no matter what life throws at me, not because it is a good option, but because it is my only option.
Audrey Denison is a young professional working and living in Washington, D.C. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Everything will be all right in the end and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”
I’ve heard that quote multiple times. There are moments, however, when I doubt that very advice. I am an optimistic person. I tend to search for the good in life. Having faith that God will come through for others is easy for me to believe. But somehow, in the midst of a disappointment, a darkness sets in and my faith in God’s ability to pull me through to the finish line fades.
When life gets overwhelming and you find yourself in a deep, dark place, focusing only on what is going wrong, it’s hard to stay confident in God and His promised blessings. There are times in life that we feel prompted to do something and it doesn’t work out as we’d anticipated. There are also times in life that we’re asked to do things, but fear of the unknown disables us.
Eight years ago, I had moved back to California after earning a bachelors degree and I was preparing to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). I was feeling confident and had prepared for the test in every way possible. In my personal experience, when I’m on the right path, doors seem to open and everything tends to line up. It’s how I know I am going in the right direction.
A few short weeks after I took the test, a friend and I were having dinner when we were surprised with simultaneous emails announcing our results. Jumping out of our skin with a mixture of excitement and nervousness, we decided she would look at my score and I would look at hers. Opening her email, I screamed, “165!” Her face went from an ecstatic smile to a lack of emotion as she looked at my results. I knew it couldn’t be good news. Without saying a word she turned the phone so I could read it: 148. ONE FOURTY-EIGHT! How was that even possible?
In that 30-second window, my dreams of law school were all but destroyed. I was furious. Why had I felt prompted throughout the entire process of applying to law school only to fail? Suddenly all the advice I’d ever given others regarding faith and hope felt meaningless in my own time of trouble.
To this day, I am unsure why I had to go through that process, but I don’t feel it was without merit. From there, I changed direction and pursued something I’d always felt drawn to: landscape photography. Frustrated with the lack of financial success in the field, I worked various odd jobs that left me with no spare time for photography. One night my boyfriend said, “If you feel like photography is what you’re supposed to be doing, why are you doing everything but that?” I retorted, “Well, who else is going to pay my bills?” Without skipping a beat he said, “If photography is what you feel God wants you to do, then why not have faith that He will provide?”
I was annoyed because he was right. I continually felt like I was drawn towards photography, but I filled my time and energy into everything but that. I would complain that God pigeonholed me. It was as if He wanted me to do something yet wasn’t providing a way. It never crossed my mind that I was the roadblock.
I was too busy fearing all that could go wrong. If I focused on photography alone, how would I pay my bills and make ends meet? If there’s one thing I know it’s that God won’t let us go down the wrong path for too long. I had tried doing photography with a full plate and now it was time to take a leap of faith and focus singularly on photography.
As soon as I directed more time and energy into photography, people began contacting me for work. I submitted to the world-renowned Wildlife Photographer of the Year Contest, and I continue to watch God’s hand in my life as things seem to fall into place. Just because things do not turn out as we plan doesn’t mean they don’t turn out exactly how God has planned.
I’ll always be thankful for the reminder to take a leap of faith and trust that God will come through. Keep pushing forward and keep trying. Keep reminding yourself that if your friends can have faith in greater days to come, so can you.
“Everything will be all right in the end and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”
Photo Credit: Carolyn Brandt/Offset.com
I once denigrated my brother. Perched on an ugly, high horse of self-righteousness I proceeded one morning to tell him how his drug addiction had ruined my peace of mind and ruined his future and when I paused to draw breath so I could spew another reason why he should be ashamed of himself he said, “The good in me sees the good in you.”
True, he had lied and stolen and traumatized my children—and our family had drained bank accounts to send him to rehab…twice. All this was true and will always be true, but his words cut down my ugly horse and forced hot shame straight to my core. There, amidst the stink of his home, in his shredded hoodie, his bloodied broken nose, and frozen filthy bare feet, this heroine addict preached one of the most beautiful sermons I would ever hear. He saw goodness in me. I had failed to do the same for him.
Why continue to have faith in the goodness of other people? Why continue to have faith in humanity as a whole when day after day you hear stories of petty crimes and drug-fueled robberies? And communities terrified by crazed gun wielders? And children shot between morning announcements and first recess? And entire communities brutalized, murdered, forced from their homelands onto frigid oceans in flimsy boats because that is better than what they’re running from?
Because noticing the goodness in others, something as simple as watching for good drivers in traffic or appreciating effective customer service, or even looking for the good intentions of someone criticizing you, deepens the optimistic nueropathways in your brain. Having faith in humanity matters because as my brother reminded me, when we look for the good in others, we find it. What kind of world do you want to see?
“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for.” –Harper Lee
But having faith in the goodness of humanity can do even more for us than increase our optimism. When you see the good others are doing, it motivates you to do good, too. It reminds you to be the change you wish to see. When you see how others cope with their adversity, it encourages you to better cope with your own.
If you have faith that humanity as a whole is generally good, then you see global atrocities through the lens of faith. This lens allows you to look deeper at the motivation of others. It allows you to see others with compassion. When you seek to understand why an organization would promote acts of terror, instead of evil you might see hungry, desperate, downtrodden souls looking for ways out of their despair.
Faith in humanity matters because it is the very thing that will heal what is broken in this world.
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” –Mahatma Gandhi
I once held my brother’s son in my arms. Perched on the edge of a couch in my brother’s tranquil lamplit home, I rocked a tiny exquisite milky baby to sleep. This warm bundled miracle preached one of the most beautiful sermons I would ever hear in the silent peace of that room. That hope and love and redemption are winning every day in this bitter wretched world.
We are all part of humanity. We belong to one big human family. We belong to each other. When we put our faith in humanity we are putting our faith in ourselves.
Rachel Coleman is a writer, designer, and believer. Contact her at email@example.com.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You can change your life at any moment. And you know how you do it? You just choose to. Reaching a goal, seeing your dream come to fruition, really just starts with a simple choice.
“Show me a day when the world wasn’t new.” —Sister Barbara Hance
Seems too simple to be true?
Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not. And you know how I know? Because in 2014, my life cracked open.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” ―Cynthia Occelli
I had been sick for a year and a half. At first I thought I had the flu. It felt like I had the flu. I was stuck in bed like I had the flu. But I never recovered like you do with the flu. And as time passed, my list of symptoms grew.
I lost my body fat, my hair, the ability to sit or stand for more than a few minutes, and my mind. Some days I couldn’t complete a sentence because I couldn’t think of the next word. As a writer, this was kind of a catastrophe. I developed crazy food allergies, asthma, and a heart arrhythmia.
But my life hadn’t cracked open yet. That happened on an early spring day, just as northern Utah was waking from a bitter cold winter. It started with devastating news about one of my children. News that involved police and witness statements and something precious stolen from her that could never be restored. News that broke all our hearts.
That same week, things escalated with my husband and I filed a Protective Order, and then a week later, a petition for divorce. Seventeen years of trying to make a very unhealthy relationship work and I finally came to this realization:
I could change my life at any moment.
You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down. —Ray Bradbury
It was the scariest and best decision I’ve ever made. I knew there would be no going back. Once I filed those papers in the courthouse I could no longer keep the secrets I’d been keeping before. My insides would come out. Everything would change.
I went to a quiet place to pray. I humbled myself and opened my heart to hear answers. And I got them. Loud and clear. I felt I would be protected. I felt things would work out. I had no idea how, but I put absolute faith in those answers. I recognized the source by the overwhelming peaceful feeling. It was my higher power, God, the universe—there are many names for the same things—but I recognized the source because I had felt it time and time again in my life and it was never wrong.
I was done pretending like everything was okay. Things were not okay at all. Things were as bad as they could get. At the time I had no job. No money. And my health was so poor I had no idea how I would support myself and four children, but I trusted those answers. I knew I couldn’t bear to live my old life for a second longer. I knew I needed to provide a safe place for my kids and a model of what a good relationship looked like. I was ready to nurture the seed of our dreams—to be seen, heard, valued, and safe. I was ready to jump off the cliff.
So I jumped.
It was awful, gut wrenching, soul ripping, and it looked and felt just like destruction. But you know what? I believed. I had faith that good things were coming. And just like a seed sprouts and completely changes, so did my life.
I received a diagnosis, finally, and started recovering. My kids have been miraculously resilient as they navigate the aftermath of divorce. And my life resembles nothing of my former—in the best way possible. I have a career that is richly satisfying, but more importantly I only allow relationships in my life that are nurturing and reciprocally fulfilling.
This is what I know, what I can promise you: you can change your life at any moment. It starts with a decision. Sometimes we forget that everything is optional in our life. Everything. If something is not helping you achieve your highest good, be it a career, a habit, or a relationship, you can choose at any time to let it go.
Follow that decision up with action—you’ve got to take that leap off the cliff. This requires a lot of faith.
And then you build your wings. For me this meant going back to school while working and being a single mother. Hard? Yes. Scary? Yes. Worth it? Yes, yes, yes! It meant learning new skills, putting myself out there in the business world in ways that were excruciating for an introvert. It meant reading self-help books and going to therapy and processing what had lead me to my former life so I wouldn’t repeat mistakes of the past. And mostly it meant reminding myself over and over not to quit, that things would get better, that life was meant to be enjoyed, that joy comes in the morning.
“Don’t give up…. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead…. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” —Jeffery R. Holland
Build those wings and fly high. A brand new beautiful life is waiting for you.
Rachel Coleman is a writer, designer, and believer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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