There are problems living in my house. Occasionally I catch them looking at me in the mirror or following closely behind. Once, I spotted a group partying in my kids bedroom!
A love/hate relationship exists between us. On one hand I love problems because of their inherent skill set. They improve my character 100% of the time.And then, I hate them. They loiter about, actively searching for mischief and they voraciously pounce when I'm weak.
I've noticed that issues tend to take two levels in my life.
Level 1 - Problems solved by preparation and forethought
On the first level live problems that challenge my soul. I'm not as surprised when Level 1 problems surface.
Example: When a child misbehaves. I can predict, with certainty, that tomorrow morning one or more of my kids will disobey me or be unkind to a family member. And that's a problem. But I can handle it.
So, when facing a Level 1 problem, it's real. It's there staring me down, but fear isn't involved. I've got this. I just need to follow through with the plan I already made!
Level 2 - Problems that are unsolvable
Life has become a pendulum of problems and ease, difficulty and wonder. Back and forth it moves effortlessly, impossible to stop without injury. And like level 1 problems, I wrestle these problems to the ground, except when I don't.
Occasionally I'll think I've "got it together" and I'm ready to deal with whatever comes my way and then BAM! I'm on the floor in my bathroom, crying.
Why did I ________?
Why didn't I _________?
So what happens when I realize I'm not the problem-fighting machine I thought I was?
I must learn to take the highs and lows gracefully. I cannot predict the future so I must have grace. Offering myself grace requires my giving up control.
A pastor was recently featured on Ann Voskamp's blog saying, "Rewrites don’t mean you’re doing it wrong — it means you’re doing exactly what it takes to get it right. If your story goes sideways, just turn the paper and write on.
When difficulties arise, my heart yearns for a do over. But, I can't always have one.
That same yearning to start over, if I'm not careful, can be turned toward despair.
Despair comes without effort. It is the default monster. What would I do differently? How could I have done better?
Regret is a plague we weren't meant to suffer. Silencing the hypothetical requires Truth.
Yes, there might be space to courageously edit and rewrite life. Being willing to step into the ring again, blind to the judgments of others, could prove liberating and might be wisdom.
But I can't just sit still and see what happens because despair might bust in. So I must intentionally fight despair to make way for hope.
LEARNING TO LET GO
Sometimes I wonder if it's time to grab a clean sheet of paper, crumple up the last one and toss it nonchalantly into the trash. I can write a new chapter and begin anew.
Maybe this situation is one I allowed myself to step into but it wasn't mine to grab?
I've realized I always have the option to live right now.
Worrying about hypothetical situations steals the best parts of my spirit. It robs me of present-tense living.
Like Frost's poem, it's like a road diverging and I hope I take the one less traveled by. Only in retrospect will the meaning and purpose of these problems become clear. By then, it will be too late to come back to the crossroads and make a new choice.
I must press onward like he says, "Yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back."
My action step is to write the problem a farewell letter.
Dear Little Situation,
You are a nuisance, but a blessing. You have captured my attention but I refuse to allow you to captivate my thoughts.
I give you up and surrender you to this box, labeled with care. I will find you when it's time. I trust that, in the future, you'll continue to be used to refine me.
But for now, I need you to stay inside these layers of tissue paper and folds of brown cardboard. My character will thank you someday.
Have you ever had a problem that needed to be silenced? How do you get rid of the scenarios or regret of things undone?