I was a good kid. I never got into trouble at school, I was always wanting to please all the teachers, all of the time. I was also a good girl at home. I was helpful, responsible, reliable and all of that. ‘Naughty’ was just not done, in any way/ shape or form, apart from in the ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ books by Dorothy Hughes. Gee I loved those books. I delighted in those stories. Maybe I secretly envied what the naughty little sister did. I dunno. But I do know I was a very good kid.
Apart from that one time.
That one time when I did do a very naughty thing.
A very naughty thing indeed.
I must have been seven, and my older sister was away at boarding school. No this isn’t a common thing for us New Zealanders, this was when we were ‘Missionary Kids’ in Asia. My sister was a couple of days’ train ride away from me and what was our home, but she’d left her precious little bottles of perfume behind. Wise move on her part, so she thought. Keeping those items away from dormitory life. But they weren’t away from her naughty little sister, were they? My not so wise move was to take those tiny little bottles – that held massive meaning for her – and I added some water to them. I thought I was doing her a favour. I thought I was extending the life of those perfumes. I thought I was making them go further.
Nope. No I wasn’t. And yep. Was she mad.
I knew I wasn’t supposed to touch her belongings. But I did. Naughty, naughty me.
You see seven year old me didn’t know that the act of diluting the perfume was in fact going to take away its strength. Its power. To dilute is to make weaker in force, content or value by modification or the addition of other elements.
When something is diluted it is diminished. Reduced. Decreased. Lessened. Quietened and Moderated.
Those aren’t very inspiring words. Not things I’d like to aspire to in life in general. Not life goals worth having. And don’t you think that sometimes when the mundane in life tries to take over, and you find yourself in the hamster wheel of doing same old, same old ‘life’, and actually you want to make the absolute most of whatever blessed life you’ve been given and whatever you have left ahead of you. Sometimes you just get this fire in your belly, and you realize that you don’t want to live a life that is diminished. Reduced. Decreased. Lessened. Quietened and Moderated. In any way.
So what can you do?
From being around some good people, and from reading good books and from hearing people’s stories, the thing I keep hearing time and time again, about all of this ‘living your best life’ stuff is: (buckle up friends, you may actually want to tap me on the head, with a hammer, over this one) you can’t shy away from hard things. You must do hard things.
You must. In whatever shape or form these hard things come into your life – whether you open the door to them, or they just barge right on in, uninvited, and then stay on and on and on, you can and must do these hard things.
Hard things……..are…………..hard. Pain, grief and suffering. Nothing can prepare for those things. Nothing. They push people to limits they didn’t even know existed, and then some. People things are hard. People are so…….peopleish. Sickness is hard. It is simply awful seeing someone you love in pain. Relationships can be hard. The family unit can be hard. Financial problems can be hard. Infertility. Miscarriage. Job loss. Addictions. Hard hard hard hard.
Everyone on God’s green earth, at some point or another is going to, or has, or is currently facing something that is HARD. And you’ve got two options with what to do with that situation, whatever that situation is. One – you can run like the wind and you choose not to have that conversation. Or make those changes. Or seek that advice. Or heal that wound. Or two – you lean in to that hard. Sometimes with teeth gritted, and chin thrust up, sometimes with tears and moaning and groaning. And you deal with that hard, in the trenches, fighting the battle, sometimes fiercely, and sometimes with no energy to spare at all, but you face that hard.
Elisabeth Elliot said ‘Sometimes fear does not subside and one must choose to do it afraid’. I think of my friend Treva when I read that quote. She lost her husband nearly a year ago. This first anniversary of Jeff’s passing will be extremely hard for Treva and her three children. But this is what she wrote just last week: ‘It’s a battle to trust the Lord, to keep my eyes focused, and to heal the hard stuff. But I am excited for our future. God has big plans and never leaves us alone’. Treva has been real and raw and authentic as she’s allowed people to see her grieve. Follow her on instagram (trevalavonne) if you want to see what a brave and honest faith really looks like, in the face of adversity. It’s been a huge privilege to see how she can be truly ok, in the midst of such heartache. Paul in the bible says this: ‘God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us’ (2 Corinthians 1:4). My friend Treva knows what it is like to have God as her rock, as her ever present comfort, because all else has been stripped away from her. And as she’s been carried, in the hard times, she’s also been able to reach out and help others who are walking their own grief story. That’s right, not even a year into her widowhood and she’s reaching out to others and speaking life and hope into them, because she’s not afraid to lean into the hard.
This leaning into the hard, this dealing with whatever curveballs come your way, why does it even matter? (Especially when avoiding the hard is actually easier/ more convenient/sometimes cheaper/ less stressful). I think it matters because people in general have pretty astute crap-o-meters. Most of us can tell the real deal from the fake, and the most respect I have and the most admiration possible, goes to those who can speak into my life from a place of ‘knowing’. From a place of authenticity. From a place of having walked the hard yards, they can hold genuine empathy for you and their encouragement is real. Those people – what they say really matters. And it matters because, as a by-product of having gone through the hard, these people aren’t reducing themselves, or their God. They aren’t diluting Him or His power. They aren’t lessening or decreasing or moderating or quietening. Quite the contrary. They are shining a spotlight on Him. On His power. On His grace. On the Hope we have in Him.
So, be encouraged. Do the hard things. Even if you’re doing them while kicking and screaming and stamping your feet like a petulant five year old. You’re still doing them. Walk through those valleys, knowing you are not alone. Make those connections. Be that good friend. Make that appointment. Be that advocate. Make that decision that gives you goosebumps. Lean into God, and know that what you carry is strong, and powerful, a fragrance that is not diluted.
And one day, because you can speak from a place of authenticity and your story carries with it power, be encouraged that ‘the scars you share become lighthouses for the people who are headed for the same rocks you hit‘.