Q. Is it what you're given or what you do with what you're given that matters most?
Navigating Transition Alone, a Rebound workshop for women of abuse and domestic violence produced this remarkable question. Coming, surprisingly, not out of her struggle of abuse, but out of a desire to understand the fairness of God. She said , "I've heard people say, it's not what you're given, but what you do with it, but when you have next to nothing it's hard to believe that to be true.
What makes rebuilding so very difficult is the 're'. There is a part of us that feels we have to "re"create what we had before and the dreaded impossiblitity of that is overwhelming. Recreate: to create anew somehow translates in our minds to create the same. The truth of the matter is things will never be the same and they were not meant to be.
Trauma on any level, changes us. It's alters how we view life, but the beauty in it is we get to choose the lens we view life through. My first marriage, as I share in the book, was abusive and it took quite an emotional toll on me as a person and especially as a woman. It shaped what I felt I deserved and didn't deserve, how I allowed people to treat me, what I allowed people to say to me and about me. Yet long after the abuser is gone, if we are not careful, we pick up the mantle of abuse and continue the cycle on ourselves (see I Refuse to be a Victim blog) and on others.
It's easy to look at the grass on someone else lawn and wonder what it must be like to be them. If only I had a gardner, my lawn would look beautiful too. If I had a sprinkler system and not just a water hose my lawn wouldn't have brown spots from missed areas of watering. If I had a green thumb I would have beautiful plants and flowers providing me with shade from the sun. But what if we flipped the switch and viewed our lawn through a different lens? There is someone looking at your lawn just longing for a patch of grass needing upkeep. That water hose for someone without running water is like glancing out at Niagra Falls stunned and amazed at the power and beauty of it all.
I realize abuse, dosmestic violence, spiritual disillusionment, and the like, are much more serious than a lawn, but the premise of overcoming them is the same - what do you do with what you are given? What do you do with what you have?
Lamenting over what I have not been given is a waste of the imagination.
Comedian Whoopie Goldberg first came to fame with a comedic sketch in which she donned a long white towel on her head, representing her long blonde hair, and her spot on valley girl accent. Why did this resonnate with so many? Many black girls across America, myself included, had secretly dreamt of being that blonde haired valley girl. Why? It was the only imagine of beauty, and therefore acceptance, we had seen. However, no matter how much we lamented over not having blonde hair it was not going to change the fact that "natural" blonde hair was not in our DNA cards. At some point we had to embrace what we did have and stop focusing on what we did not have. We embraced our braids, and locks and cornrows and luscious natural hair .
Rebuilding could no longer be 'what was before', but something anew and 'anew' can be scary as we see in the story of Lot in Gen. 19.
"But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”
He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.
By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt."
If you are in a Rebound of any type the first lens adjustment is to realize as we see with Lot in verse 18 that "you have found favor with God, and in His kindness, he has sparred your life."
It's the beginning of flipping your script. You may have been through hell and back, but the focus is on making it back. That lens makes you powerful verses weak. Resilient verses rigid. Pliable verses unyielding. To build anew we must let go of the vision of before and be willing to build from scratch. And yes that's hard work, but so worth it.
Secondly, accept that sometimes we settle for less than God's desire for us, because that's all we have left in our engine as Lot did when asking to go to Zoar, the smaller mountain. But God understanding, agreed, but with the stipulation"you have to go and you have to go quickly." God gets you! Do it afraid. Fear is satan's tool to keep us out of the favor of God.
Lastly, don't look back. Whatever we are escaping from our pasts has left us damaged, crippled, battered and bruised. God had Lot take what he needed for the next phase of his journey. Nothing left behind will be of use to you. When I finally walked away trembling and pertrified of my next move, it was with nothing. Everything had to be rebuilt: bank account, relationships, self esteem, dreams. Stop lamenting what's behind, take inventory on what remains and allow God to point you towards your 'next.'
Phillians 3: 12 says it best about pressing on towards the goal. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that which has taken hold of me. Brothers and Sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
I could not have arrived at where I am today had I not released yesterday and begin to build anew. Like the Phoenix, a mythical bird of beauty that rises from the ashes after suffering great calamity you too, can and will ,rise again if you fight for it.