“I am not surprised by the fact that inexplicable and terrible things happen in a cosmos as complicated as ours with sentient beings like us running the show. But I am emboldened by the fact that surprise is the only constant. We are never really running the show, never really in control, and nothing will go quite as we imagined it. Our highest ambitions will be off, but so will our worst prognostications. I am emboldened by the puzzling, redemptive truth to which each and every one of my conversations has added nuance, that we are made by what would break us. Birth itself is a triumph through a bloody, treacherous process. We only learn to walk when we risk falling down, and this equation holds – with commensurately more complex dynamics – our whole lives long.” Krista Tippett, host of Public Broadcasting’s On Being. This quote is from the introduction to her book, Becoming Wise.
Surprise is the only constant.
We only learn to walk when we risk falling down.
We live in surprise more than ever in these days, don’t we? Something new every day. We’re learning to walk – again.
There is no way to avoid the struggles and pitfalls of life. They come. They turn things upside down and inside out. When they come, we have two choices: run from them in fear; or face the fear and sit down in the midst of it until we have learned what it has to teach us. So it is as we face COVID-19.
We really are made by what would break us.
When we run from the fear, we grow timid and dependent, angry and depressed.
When we sit in the midst of the anxiety in spite of our fear, we are made stronger.
The older we get, the more we know that this is true. When we accept it, we become wise and earn the name, “elder.”
When I was a kid, we drove every year from Ohio to my relatives’ home in Rochester, New York, at Christmas. We had to take the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and in those days, there were several long, dark tunnels through the mountains that we had to travel through. They were dark grey concrete, with occasional bare lightbulbs leaving a faint spot of light that was gobbled up by the flat, dark surfaces. It looked like a road to hell to my young eyes! When we reached the other end, I literally felt myself taking a quick, deep breath. My clenched fists relaxed. My heart slowed down.
When the next one appeared up ahead, the dreadful anticipation grew again. But I kept my eyes open as if seeing could make me brave this time. And again, I breathed a sigh of relief as we left the darkness of hell and found daylight and open space again. My hands were open again. My heart was still in its rightful place deep inside.
I didn’t like those dark, barren tunnels, but even as a kid, I knew that to get to the joy of Christmas with my cousins, aunt and uncle and grandmother, I had to go through the discomfort and fear of those tunnels.
When we face the fear and do not run from it, when we enter the bleak tunnel because we must, we find that the other end has been waiting for us all along.
“Birth is a triumph…” Tippett reminds us. Every kind of birth!
Here’s to what is birthing in us as we travel these new dark tunnels. It will be a surprise, I guarantee, even if our hearts are pounding and we’re clenching our fists while we travel through them.
New birth will happen. We may have skinned knees from falling down some. But a stronger heart will be beating within us.
And we’ll have been remade once again. Wait for it…grace is still abundant and meeting us along the way.