It's 7:12 a.m., which means I have exactly 18 minutes before the clock expires on my writing time and I have to get ready for work.
At 6:30 a.m., a construction zone erupted outside, shattering the early-morning quiet of my suburban neighborhood. For 42 minutes I've been trying to ignore the rumbling of the concrete trucks, and the voices trying to project themselves over the noise of the concrete trucks. But all I can think about is how all those thoughts I sat down to write - my best thoughts ever, I'm sure - are GONE. Obliterated. Swallowed up by the cacophony.
I had planned to write about the meaning of Everything Happens For A Reason. And I'm wondering...what possible reason could there be for this nonsense?!
Of course, from my neighbors' point of view, the explanation is likely pretty simple. They need a new driveway. Maybe they've saved for years for this new driveway. And maybe the only opening the concrete company had between now and forever was at 6:30 a.m. this very day.
So really, it seems the question is not so much, What's the reason this thing is happening? The question is, What's in it for me?
And right now...I got nothin'.
Oh, I know how this cliche is supposed to work. I understand the magic of hindsight and its ability to help me appreciate past events and experiences from a new, improved, more-grown-up vantage point. I've had plenty of opportunities to look back, connect dots and marvel at how, sometimes, when it seemed things were falling apart, they were in fact falling into place...moments of insight-expanding, awe-inspiring awareness in which everything suddenly and unexpectedly makes sense.
Moments of purest grace.
I'm supposed to be able to lean on those experiences of grace when the present moment presents me with some kind of challenge.
But I forget.
Because what's happening in the now is always a new story, uncharted territory that tricks me into believing it can't be navigated based on what's come before. It's a forgetting combined with an unknowing compounded by the fact that, in general, the curveball is not my forte.
Telling myself that there's a reason for what's happening doesn't help. In my head, "this is happening for a reason" too easily morphs into a whiny, why? Why? WHY? It sets up an expectation that I should be privy to said reason or, worse yet, that I should be able to figure out what it is. And that...is a one-way ticket to CrazyTown.
The truth is, sometimes even with hindsight I don't get to know all the why's and wherefore's and WTF's. Ever. (And thank God, because that would be too much information anyway.)
Yes, grace happens.
And sometimes...other stuff happens.
So I think it's more accurate to say that some things happen for A Particular Reason that (sooner or later) God lets me in on. If there's some lesson to be learned, some message to be imparted, some puzzle piece I need that's part of a bigger picture, He will make sure I get it.
But if we're going to speak in terms of everything, then I'd have to say that everything happens for THE Reason. And THE Reason is simply so that the next thing can happen.
In between the big aha moments, the grand epiphanies, and the jaw-dropping "I get it's!" is real life. Ever-changing, button-pushing, pandemonium-filled real life, calling me to wake up to the truth available in every moment, reminding me that I do have choices, and that sometimes God's greatest gifts show up in irritating, frustrating, challenging, difficult-to-unwrap, impossible-to-assemble, no-instructions-included packages that just. don't. make. sense.
(To me, anyway.)
To quote my sister from a long-ago Christmas as she, with an increasingly puzzled look on her face, inspected a just-unwrapped gift: "Really? Did I ask for this?"
Ask this question of God and His answer is always "yes." But ultimately, it doesn't matter why He was inspired to choose for me this particular name brand of challenge or upset. It doesn't matter if what's happening is logical or reasonable or explainable.
What matters is what happens next.
What matters is my response, and asking Why? does not facilitate a skillful response. Instead, it feeds the reaction.
So what's the take-away from the construction zone?
For my neighbors, a shiny new driveway.
And for me...a chance to watch myself run the gamut: react, get mad, question; judge myself for reacting and getting mad and questioning; forgive myself for reacting and getting mad and questioning and judging. And then -- finally! -- respond from a different place.
Do I wish the time between reaction and response was shorter? Absolutely.
Do I wish I could've gone from zero to "yes" without all the detours? Yes.
Will I get it right next time? Probably not completely. But if I can close the gap even a tiny bit, if I can choose a little bit sooner to simply allow what wants to happen next, I'll call that progress.
* * * * *
As always, I'd love your thoughts on this or any other well-loved, possibly-despised cliche. And if you missed Parts One and Two of the Trite and True Series, catch up here: This Too Shall Pass. And here: Pain is Unavoidable, Suffering is Optional.