“Our memory and our vision are often least reliable when it comes to the things we are closest to and care about the most. We are often the last ones to see what is obvious to an outsider…saintly Mrs. Bebe and her family had forgotten the tragedy that defined them…”
– Matthew Sleeth, 24-6 a prescription for a healthier, happier life
The excerpt above is from Dr. Sleeth’s book “24-6” a book about the Sabbath and how we need that seventh day of rest in our lives. I downloaded a sampler of this book from NoiseTrade books and it truly is amazing. However, totally outside of the topic of the book, the underlined portion above is what caught my eye. The tragedy that defined them. The story he is referring to is Mrs. Bebe and her family’s history and how it affected her physically. One cold night in January Mrs. Bebe came into the emergency room via ambulance complaining that her chest hurt “right here” (heart vicinity). Dr. Sleeth could find nothing wrong with her and began asking the family about her history and finally, if anything significant had happened at that time of year. He found out that many years ago Mr. Bebe had passed away in a horrible home/barn fire while trying to rescue the animals. The children and his wife stood there and watched while the house and barn burned down with no way to help their husband. Mrs. Bebe’s complaint and pain was due to a broken heart, not a medical condition. The quote above was referring to the fact that the entire family had forgotten what occurred that snowy night even though it had re-shaped their world forever. It truly was a tragedy that defined, or redefined rather, their existence.
It made me think of the things that shape who we are and the choices we make. I’ve read that the choices we make and the opinions we form are often due to negative influences rather than positive ones, or that negative influences can hold more weight than the positive. Tragedies impact us more than the happiest of occasions. Accidents on the road make us drive more cautiously. Seeing the way alcohol and drugs can ruin a person’s life make us more cautious in pursuing destructive behavior. Relationships gone wrong encourage us to renew the communication and commitment in our own lives. It’s the tragedies that force us to make some of our most important decisions, not always the successes.
“Tragedy doesn’t stop you from living.
Tragedy happens to let you remember why it is important for you to live.
The only way tragedy can stop you from living is when its force is so strong
that it causes your own life to end.”
-Lloyd Moffat, The Decisions that Shape One’s Destiny
This concept is so huge for me in learning to weather life’s storms. I can choose to respond to the tragedies in such a way that I am constantly reacting to life or I can choose to respond in a way of creating an alternate decision or opportunity from that tragedy. Learning to use tragedy as a preparation for something greater. Learning to use the moments of pain and brokenness as stepping stones to completeness. I am learning to trust the process of the Lord’s working in me as I navigate my personal trials and the tragedies that happen as a result of faulty human decisions. We are all imperfect, yet we have control over the decisions we make. We will make decisions that hurt others, but it’s what we do upon the realization of causing that pain that will define who we are. The tragedies we face define us, through our response to those tragedies.
Peter said it this way: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials [tragedies] , so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7, NASB) Everything we do is to be done unto the glory of the Lord. Everything. To bring glory to Him. Every decision we make should be based on the foundation of bringing glory to Him. In our everyday work, relationships and lives, we should seek to bring glory to Him. When we walk through the valley, He is with us, in every decision, He is there. In every tragedy, even when we don’t feel Him, He is there, holding out a hand to help be the defining power in our lives.