Some extremes are necessary. For example, being a conscientious objector is extreme and yet it is an expression of profound dedication to the principle “Do No Harm.”
I played it safe most of my life because I did not want to hurt the people that I loved so I did what I was told even if it denied my personality and what I believed. I did not have the courage to go to the extreme and live my Truth. I chose a novel at random the other day at the library. Never heard of the book or the author and it s blowing my mind! What I read this morning is causing me to rethink the meaning of “extreme.”
The book is The Gadfly by Jennifer Miller. I would like to quote a character, Mr. Kaplan, science teacher in a private school in the year 2012:
“Difference is the essence of extremity. To be extreme, you must assert yourself. No matter how much pressure you feel to obey. Because, I assure you, the pressure is everywhere.” p. 42
In making this statement to his high school students, Mr. Kaplan is reminding them of micro-organisms that cannot thrive except in the extreme pressure of the deepest ocean depths.
I am now filled with deeper gratitude for the experiences of my life that forced me inward to the Truth of Who I Am…because I have and am thriving because of the pressure.
Life is often daunting. Getting older, facing serious health issues, financial challenges, and relationship struggles are just a few of the things that can create disappointment and fear for us. If these experiences go on long enough, we can begin to lose hope that things will get better and that we will be truly happy.
Several people I deeply admire have spoken in recent weeks of the importance of being a source of living hope in our own lives and, as a result, shining the light of hope in the lives of others. Their comments have caused me to spend time sitting with and focusing on this experience, this emotion, we call hope.
When I was growing up (next Monday will be my 71st birthday), I was taught to put my hope in God. I was taught that God is love. I was also taught that God is this distant being who demands that I make up for having been “born in sin” and earn his approval and love. I think I was only in third grade when I began to realize that I could never be good enough to accomplish that. Underlying that realization was the feeling that putting my hope in a God that difficult to please might not be hope at all.
In the many decades since that time, as I have been on this spiritual journey of learning to be human, I have come to understand that God indeed is love and that the truth is this: I exist and inhabit this human form because a spark of the Divine is the very essence of my being. The Divine within me is the reason I am.
Therefore, the hope that I seek dwells in the very essence of my own being. I need not look outside myself to others even though I am often inspired by others to fan the flame of that divine spark and to live a life of hope. Please do not misunderstand what I just said. We do need one another; we need Divinely-inspired spiritual teachers and guides to instruct us in the use of tools that lead us into communion with the Divine Within. We also must understand that each of us is responsible for our personal journey. Practicing the tools given by our teachers, we find the love, peace, joy, and hope that we seek.
I am retired now so I don’t think much about “going on vacation” because my life feels like a vacation. This week I arranged to see friends out of town, knowing that this heart of mine needed time with “my girls.”
These are women I know well, two of them since we were children. It is a joy to have friendships that endure and come to feel more like family than friends.
These few days have been exactly what I had hoped. Love and laughter has been flowing like the waters of a beautiful fountain. No need to throw coins in and make wishes on this trip! All my wishes have been fulfilled simply by giving myself the gift of being with people who love me unconditionally and who let me love them back.
Each of us is unique, quite different from one another. In my mind and heart we are like a fragrant bouquet of my favorite flowers….and we are so funny! Just ask us and we will gladly tell you what a kick we get out of ourselves!
Yep, nothing like spending time with sister-friends! 😍 May each of you be so abundantly blessed.
Has the word “friend” lost some of its meaning to you because of social media? Do you think about the difference between a friend and an acquaintance? When I was in my twenties, I made friends quite easily, or at least I thought I did. What I actually did was make assumptions. I didn’t understand that an acquaintance becomes a friend over time, as we learn to truly listen, trust, and know each other. An acquaintance is a person I like and enjoy spending time with now and then. A friend is a person I do that with also but who also knows my sorrows as well as my joys. A friend will be there for me when life’s challenges start to overwhelm me. A friend will trust me with his/her sorrows and allow me to offer support when needed as well.
It has been said for many years that you are blessed if you can count the number of true friends on one hand. I agree. In the times of my greatest joys and my deepest sorrows, there have been just a few people that I turn to immediately. One listens and asks what I need. Another calls my name into multiple churches for daily prayer. Another will laugh or cry with me and know that is enough. These are my inner circle, my family of friends, and I am profoundly grateful for their love and faithfulness.
Understanding this difference between a friend and an acquaintance has allowed me to love and appreciate the people in my life without falling prey to hurt because of my own mistaken expectations. I love them all and they love me; the difference is the level of intimacy as well as the spiritual/emotional purpose of our relationship. When I am clear, my relationships are also. There are fewer misunderstanding, fewer pressures or demands. Life is simpler, easier, and more fun.