Road Signs for Success – January 30, 2008

By Sondra Whitt

As we go through life, we all experience pain, hurts, adversity, wounds — sometimes self-inflicted, sometimes inflicted by others. The wounds that we suffer may be physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial. They may be small wounds that we can easily recover from or so devastating to us that it takes weeks, months or even years to fully recover. People respond in different ways to these wounds. Some people are so hurt and broken that they give up, surrendering to bitterness, self-pity and victim-hood, while others grow stronger and become better people because of the adversity and struggle they’ve fought their way through.

In Lefthanded Soldiers, author Gary Eby writes that when our “right arms” have been hurt, we can become “lefthanded soldiers,” instead of letting circumstances defeat us and leave us bemoaning our lives, getting bogged down in the “what ifs.” What if we had gotten married, what if we hadn’t? What if we’d taken that other job? What if we’d gone to college? What if we hadn’t been so trusting? What if we hadn’t made that risky investment? What if we hadn’t been in the wrong place at the wrong time? The list could be endless.

“In the real world — most of the time — it’s the size of your mess that determines the size of your message,” writes Eby. “Where would Abe Lincoln have been without the Civil War? Where would John Kennedy have been without the Cuban Missile Crisis? David needed Goliath to become King. You cannot wear a victor’s crown without having fought a few battles! You can’t sing before you talk. You can’t run before you walk. You can’t have a message until you’ve had a mess — and you can’t have a testimony until you’ve had a test.” In the song Eby wrote about being a lefthanded soldier one of my favorite lines goes like this: “Heaven’s cup sure is sweeter once you’ve tasted hell.”

It reminds me of a passage in Libba Bray’s book A Great and Terrible Beauty where Miss Moore, the art teacher at an exclusive girls’ school was instructing her class one day as they painted a still life of a bowl of fruit. Gemma was struggling to get the shine to look right on her apple and Miss Moore showed her how adding a little brown shadow around the outside curve of the apple fixed the problem. Cecily wondered why Gemma couldn’t just add more white to the apple to create the shine. “Because you don’t notice the light without a bit of shadow. Everything has both dark and light. You have to play with it till you get it exactly right,” said Miss Moore. Gemma’s decision to call her painting “The Choice” generated a heated discussion between her and Cecily about Eve’s choice in the Garden of Eden — and whether or not it was actually her choice or was the serpent’s irresistible temptation — and therefore, his fault. Although she finally conceded that Eve did choose to give into temptation and eat the apple, Cecily was sure she’d do better. “She lost paradise in the bargain. Not for me, thank you. I’d stay right there in the garden.” “That, too, is a choice,” points out Miss Moore. “A much safer one,” states Cecily. “There are no safe choices, Miss Temple. Only other choices,” says Miss Moore. “Every choice has consequences.”

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