A couple of days ago, I wrote about my tendency - when I encounter difficult situations - to want to think of myself as persecuted. I feel sorry for myself, and so I want to think that I am some kind of a martyr. Which I am not.
Many years ago, I had a young friend who, like me, wanted desperately to conceive a child. But there was a problem. Macy had been a competitive gymnast throughout her childhood, her teen years, and even on through college. Her specialty: the uneven bars. Well, over the years, she developed a lot of internal scar tissue in her abdomen as a result of her training. She found out about the scar tissue when she married and she and her husband wanted to have a baby. She learned then that she would probably never be able to conceive a child and that if she did, she probably would not be able to sustain the pregnancy.
When Macy was throwing herself into her gymnastics all those years, no one told her that infertility could be a consequence of her rigorous training. It would have been easy for Macy to be angry and bitter. But she wasn't. Yes, she was terribly disappointed. But I never once heard her protest, "This is so unfair!" She never said, "God is punishing me..." or "I am being persecuted!"
No. Macy was disappointed and sad - very sad - but she also understood that the scar tissue was a result of her gymnastics, and that gymnastics was something she herself had chosen to participate in on a highly competitive level. Her struggle with infertility was a consequence of her own actions. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she faced the facts with incredible strength and grace, and she turned her attention from what could not be undone to what she and her husband needed to do next.
About the same time, I had another friend, Rita, who also wanted desperately to conceive a child. But there was a problem. Rita had lived a pretty wild life during her high school and college years, and, as an unforeseen consequence of her promiscuity, had developed complications that prevented her from being able to conceive or carry a child. Now that she had settled down, married, and was ready to start a family, her past came back to bite her.
Rita had given up her immoral lifestyle. She had said goodbye to old friends and old habits, and committed herself to a lifetime of loving one man. It would have been easy for Rita to be angry and bitter that she could not have children, now that she had cleaned up her act. And she was - bitter, that is. Numerous times, I heard Rita angrily protest, "This is so unfair!" She was convinced that her inability to conceive was a curse from a unloving God who had abandoned her. She truly felt like she was being persecuted.
All of this to say...
Life is so very hard sometimes. And sad.
But this is also to say...
Actions have consequences. Sometimes, like Macy and Rita, we cannot foresee the heartbreaking consequences of our actions. Still, we must be careful to recognize the consequences for what they are - simply consequences. We must be careful to not fall into the trap of thinking we being treated unfairly, that we are being abused, that we are martyrs. That trap leads only to bitterness and depression. It locks us into a prison of defeatism, where we blame God and blame others, and so lack the initiative Macy demonstrated when she turned from grieving what was lost to asking, "What do I need to do next?"
At the same time Macy and Rita were wanting to conceive children, Steve and I were wishing we could have a baby, too. Long story short, Steve and I were successful. Infertility wasn't the battle I had to fight - my dragons have had different names.
I have struggled with my weight. I have struggled financially. I have lived with chronic pain. I have experienced some emotional war zones. And I have often thought that I was being persecuted, that I was a martyr. I have thought that God and life were being unfair.
Hard things, painful things happen in this life. Sometimes as a result of the choices I make. Sometimes as a result of the choices someone next to me makes. Sometimes, simply because this is a broken, fallen, sin-corrupted world.
Sometimes, life hits like a bulldozer. When that happens, the challenge I face is moving past "Life's not fair!" - past thinking I'm a martyr - to asking: "Okay, here I am. What can I do now?"
3 weeks ago