Over the past two years, my life has changed dramatically and in ways I never expected. Some very difficult obstacles have appeared on my journey; some I conquered with more grace than others, yet others still leaving bruises and scars. As I'm quickly approaching another alteration in seasons, I'm finding myself often lost in thought and reflection. I think as a result, my dreams have been peppered with different faces, places, and goodbyes. I've also seen the resurgence of memories, both joyous and painful. This morning was no different as I walked around the house tidying up and putting a clean face on life. I began to think of regrets; things I wish I had done differently or at the very least, better. Knowing I couldn't wallow in that pool for too long, I chose to focus on the successes I've had in the face of struggle. Offering myself the gift of grace, I began repeating, almost like a mantra, "I have done well, I have been courageous, I have overcome, I have been faithful, I am redeemed, I have survived."
Upon a quick overview of this morning's top Facebook posts, I ran across one from a member of my congregation. There was an image of a glass of water and then the following story whose author is unknown:
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."
What I came away from this with is two-fold at the very least. 1) It's vital to our health and well-being to not only put down our stresses, but to put them down at the foot of the cross, letting go completely. 2) Don't pick it back up again, especially if someone else picks it up and tries to give it back to you to hold. Far too often we put down sins, stresses, regrets, hurts, baggage, only to have someone else try and give it back to us. When we put it down, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to the forgiving love of Christ, to leave it there. We dishonor God and ourselves when we allow others to convince us that we must constantly flog ourselves with the weight of our pasts.
Maybe the lesson in this for me today is that when even my own thoughts taunt me to pick up things I've set down, I need to tell them "no". No I will not pick that back up. No I will not address that again. No I will not deny the forgiveness I've received, or the grace I encountered, or the roses amidst the thorns. No I will not treat myself with hate over love.
Plus, there's always the reality that when my hands are empty, they are then in the best place to receive and serve. My mission and purpose in life isn't to live in the shadows of my past as some in the world would like me to do. Rather, it is to overcome, move boldly into a new season with grace, and to put that which is inhibiting me in serving God fully, down.