I’ve always had a strong grip on the tragedy of life. For most of my adulthood, I’ve lived anxiously waiting for the other shoe to drop, often predicting desperate situations or sorrow with great accuracy. I prided myself on this ability in fact.
I’ve slowly come to understand that lying awake at night, obsessively strategizing how I’ll deal with that stupid shoe when it drops, is not really living at all. It was simply a coping mechanism I’d adapted to avoid a far worse outcome: painful situations that struck me down out of nowhere. As long as I was prepared, I reasoned, I could handle anything.
I also began to see that the alternative strategy of trying to escape (or ignore) the hard times was just as bad. In this world, suffering is inevitable.
I love the description of Jesus in Isaiah 53:3: ‘a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.’ He didn’t run from sorrow or manipulate circumstances to try to avoid a hard hit. And even knowing with absolute certainty what was ahead for him didn’t make him paranoid. Christ’s short life was full of loving, giving, traveling, teaching, eating, socializing, creating—and embracing great depth of emotion.
Suffering is not meant to cripple us. Lamentations is an Old Testament book of poetry that is all about experiencing hard times, growing through them, then moving on with great strength. Not comfortably wrapping oneself within fear as I did. Nor running from hardship—or, conversely playing the heroic victim/overcomer– as we humans are also prone to do.
Nothing summarizes the necessity of balance better than Lamentations 20-23: “My soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!”
Did you know the phrase ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ originated from that anxious feeling a person might have waiting for the second loud noise to occur after being rudely awakened by an upstairs neighbor dropping one shoe on the floor? Apropos isn’t it?
My attitude is changing about that other shoe. Who knows? Maybe that neighbor fell asleep with one shoe still on. Maybe not. But rather than wait around anxiously trying to predict the bang, I’m focusing more on living in the space between now and then!