Anything worth having is worth fighting for. There are so many instances in our lives where things happen that are meant to test our resolve. To test our merit. To test how badly we really want the things we claim to be chasing after.
In eastern literature there is the popular metaphor based on the life of the lotus flower. Lotus flowers start their lives in the bottom of ponds buried deep within the muck. They are immersed in the darkness without any promise of light. Yet they struggle until they break through to the surface where they bloom beautifully for all to see.
The lesson here is simple- without struggle there is no growth. We like to lose sight of that in the midst of the turmoil. We even attempt convincing ourselves that the burden is too great, that we can’t bear another loss. Then a peculiar thing happens at the end of the journey. We look back at all the hardships we encountered along the way suddenly grateful for the lessons they taught us. We realize that all that drama and nonsense was part of a larger picture which would somehow be incomplete without the heart ache. Then yet another one of those quips jumps out at us. Having never known bitterness could we ever enjoy sweetness?
TRIMMING THE DEAD LIMBS
There’s a more pervasive, and decidedly more painful, reality lurking behind the lessons sacrifice teaches us. While it is somewhat easy to let go of things that stand in the way of our goals it’s hardly easy to do the same with people. We get attached to the emotional comfort provided by our close friends and family members. We come to rely on their support, or lack there of, as we climb our way up but that isn’t always healthy. Toxic people who constantly feed our minds full of doubt and tell us we can’t achieve our innermost desires are hardly worth our time. Yet somehow we all have fallen victim to the narcissists who drain our energy or the gaslighting of people who are afraid of losing us to the life we’ll create for ourselves.
As an ex-convict I have obviously walked in the underbelly of America and been deeply immersed in the dark much like the lotus flower in our previous example. The criminal element in my home country only makes up about 10% of the population which means there was a great deal of society that I hadn’t seen in my 35 years of life. Giving my life over to God was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made but there was no way I ever could’ve prepared for the direction my spiritual life would take me.
Oh sure, I’d been an ardent meditator for years. This was a socially acceptable practice amongst pot dealers and producers of hallucinogens. Many of us 80’s babies are the offspring of flower children and are totally taken into the fold amongst the gangsters who needed our minds and abilities to produce the cash crops that sustained our market. There’s a weird little balance between the innovative thinkers and the head busting neanderthals that keeps the underworld spinning. I had capitalized on that fact and been quite successful in playing my part.
While it was all fine and dandy to have a belief system while active in my life of crime it was another to step away from the life completely and choose ministry based on that belief. However, I had made a promise to God. That promise I intend to keep regardless of how it effects my life. Isn’t that a basic tenant of spiritual law anyways? Kharma- cause and effect. What I didn’t factor in was how many people were no longer going to be a part of my life.
NEW LIFE, NEW ME
“that you should put away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” (NAB- Eph. 4:22-24)
The Apostle Paul goes on to state that one should put away falsehood and always speak the truth. There were no shortages of lies and deceit in my past and I vowed to live my truth in all of it’s entirety. That meant going back to those I’d harmed, whether they’d drawn first blood or not, and admitting the exact nature of my wrongs. Entire circles of people cut me out without a second thought. Friends I had known for 20+ years expressed their hurt and I stood there taking blow after blow to my chin. If I deserved it or not was irrelevant. The whole experience was devastating.
Oddly enough, an interesting thing began to happen along the way. For each friend I lost in the street culture a new member of the Church greeted me with open arms. For each door that was closing on my past, two were being opened in my favor. I could here the wisdom of an old friend of mine, who who didn’t turn his back in spite of my flaws, echoing in my ears as I walked towards the cross. He would always say “you were given favor amongst God and man, don’t squander it.”
See, EZ Money understood that God uses all of our talents, all of our experiences- especially the most painful ones- to transform us into living examples of grace and love. Everything I had gone through, every loss, every hardship, was leading me towards being the vessel I am today. It’s because I’ve walked through the valleys that I can enjoy the view from the summit. It’s because I have failed miserably as a human being that I am able to reach out to the addicts still suffering, to the convicts still incarcerated, to all those who need Gods love the most.
My advice is to allow yourself to be transformed by the circumstances you find yourself in. To never give up on the greater good. To push through the dark points in your life and move forward knowing that sacrifices are necessary. In this way we can truly learn to ‘live as children of the light,’ knowing the darkness is only temporary. Peace be with you.