Perspective. You walk through life often ignoring it, not being forced to reconsider it, then suddenly you are slapped hard in the face with it. After the suicide of a 12 year old girl within our community and church family, we all got a healthy dose of perspective. The devastation it caused, the fear it invoked in other parents, and the impossible challenge of accepting an event that no one could really wrap their mind around was a wake-up call to how vulnerable we all really are. It’s not comfortable to acknowledge our vulnerability. So we imagine ourselves to be strong, immune to tragedy, and generally in control of our life. Then when reminders come to challenge those beliefs, as an act of self-preservation, we try to come up with reasons why such a thing could never happen to our families, or to our kids.
But for me, this time it was different. The tragic end to this seemingly happy short life shattered that disillusionment. One weekend she and her family were busy and happy, with things penciled in on the calendar for the following weekend that would never fulfilled. They never would have imagined that instead of whatever was on their calendar, they would be at their daughter’s funeral. This event has snapped our whole community out of the trap of feeling anxious and stressed over things that before seemed so big, but now suddenly seem like nothing.
But, for how long? How long before we begin to feel angry again about a 2 hour commute, the denial of an insurance claim, or the injustice we faced at work? Slowly but surely we’re back to disillusioning ourself into thinking all our small stuff is much bigger than it really is.
We all occasionally get little glimpses of perspective. For instance, this morning I passed 3 firetrucks, 2 police cars, and 2 ambulances rushing towards my kids’ school. A little glimpse. Last week I woke up from a bad dream that I couldn’t bear to speak aloud because it was that bad. A glimpse. Last December I let my 5 year old ride his bike one time around my parents’ block and he never came back. 25 minutes of driving around, yelling for him in the now darkened sky, looking with no trace of him anywhere before we finally found him in a different neighborhood across a very busy major road…. Glimpses. Tiny little heart dropping moments when we dare to entertain the horrible what-if’s. What are your glimpses? When your loved one is well past their normal arrival time home and isn’t answering the phone? When the phone rings in the middle of the night? When you knock on your elderly parent’s door and they don’t answer and you are afraid what you’ll find?
Little glimpses are painful to endure, so we quickly brush them aside. But they serve as good reminders of what really matters. The problem with little glimpses is that they don’t last. They are quickly forgotten once it all turns out to be fine. And every time one of those glimpses turn out to be nothing, it’s as if it is an affirmation to us that, of course, everything is fine – just as it always is. Just as it always will be. We laugh as if it was foolish to consider it any other way. Of course everything is fine, nothing like that could ever happen to MY family.
But then it happens to someone we know. Something big. Something unfathomable. Something tragic. And we can’t escape the darkness that settles over us. Because this time it wasn’t just a little glimpse. It was a life altering tragedy that really hit home. And we are put to shame by the things we – just a moment prior – had thought were so important.
But such is our human condition. Because what else are we to do? We can’t perpetually live our life in fear, imagining the worst possibilities, just so we can be thankful when they don’t occur. We can’t constantly expect the worse. We aren’t wired that way. For better or for worse, we are wired to expect the best. We expect our car to start in the morning, and we expect to get safely to our destination. We expect to still be employed when we get to work, we expect our house will still be there when we get home, and we expect all our family members to be there, having arrived safely home. We have to. It’s our means of self-preservation. To live in fear is not how God intends for us to live. So we expect good things. And we are not immune to the stresses of life. No matter how well-intentioned, we cannot shut off our emotional responses when something frustrating or unfair or unjust happens to us.
So what’s the answer? For me lately, after the death of Gracey Gobble, I realize that if I want to master the practice of a better, longer lasting perspective on life, I have to do just that – practice. I have to be intentional. Because while I cannot choose my emotions when something frustrating happens, I CAN choose the thoughts that follow. I can remember Gracey’s family when I miss a doctor’s appointment because of 1 hour & 40 minutes of traffic, or when dealing with red tape, or when my head is throbbing for the 5th day in a row. And when they come, I can look at those “little glimpses” as a gift. A reminder to be intentional about holding tight to a better perspective. A reminder to practice gratefulness. Because Gracey’s family, like so many others who have experienced tragedy, would give ANYTHING if their biggest problem that day was traffic. Gratefulness. I have so much.