“Life can only be understood backwards; but must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard
Have you ever had a day or a series of days where you just felt ‘blah’? Have you ever felt stuck or experienced a setback? Have you ever felt like your days were an endless dance with the mundane and that you would never achieve your dreams? I know I have.
When feeling this way, I sometimes ask myself, “why am I experiencing this?” and “when will it be over?!” I like to be in control and have life go smoothly – the way I think is best. The problem is that life doesn’t work that way. Intellectually, I know that my ability to control all facets of my life is the same as my ability to stop the powerful ocean’s waves with my hands, but I have yet to really learn the lesson of letting go and trusting that it will all work out and make sense in the end. I need to learn to “keep the faith”, as my friend Bon Jovi says.
There’s a passage in the 29th verse of the Tao which gives this sage advice: “Everything under heaven is a sacred vessel and cannot be controlled. Trying to control leads to ruin. Trying to grasp, we lose. Allow your life to unfold naturally. Know that it too is a vessel of perfection. Just as you breathe in and breathe out, there is a time for being ahead and a time for being behind…” There is a time for everything.
This type of thinking is the exact opposite of what our ego believes. Our ego tells us we must always be “ahead” and if we’re “behind” then we must do something about it. It insists that the only way to get what we want is to control people, situations and ourselves. It tells us that if we can control, then we can avoid pain. This fear-based perspective is a barrier to living in a state of peace and love – the way we were created to live.
No matter what you read, throughout centuries the universal philosophy has called us to trust in the perfection of what appears to be imperfect. Basically, we don’t know how our lives will turn out. We don’t know that the huge disappointment or dreadful circumstance we face is necessary to teach us an essential lesson. Consider for a moment the inspiring and influential Oprah Winfrey. If it weren’t for the abuse and struggles she experienced in her early years, I doubt she would possess the same level of insight, empathy, and ability to connect with millions of people.
When I think back on my life, it’s during the times I’ve been “behind” that I’ve grown. I’ve become more compassionate through experiencing the pain of loss, disappointment, and rejection. I’ve become more giving through being in a position where I could only receive. I’ve become more grateful for the days that are filled with laughter because of the tears I’ve cried.
We have to let go of the need to know “why” and trust that our lives will be “understood backwards.”
Just as shards of glass are made into an exquisite mosaic, so grace transforms the broken pieces of our lives into a beautiful masterpiece.
The conversations, events and seemingly unimportant circumstances that occur every day are woven together in ways which are far too complex for us to comprehend. As Mark Helprin says, “in the end, or rather, as things really are, any event, no matter how small, is intimately and sensibly tied to all others.”
You don’t know how the difficulties that come your way prepare you for what may happen twenty years from now or even tomorrow. Perhaps your painful experience will be used one day to help others who are going through the same thing. Stop labelling what you’re experiencing as “bad.” Open your mind to having faith that life will always bring you what you need. Open your heart to being receptive to the lessons you are meant to learn. Open your eyes to recognizing the perfection in what you consider “imperfect”.