“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” —Epictetus
We’ve read or heard the inspirational stories of how people have overcome tragedy or being dealt a bad hand. We can either follow their example, take ownership and believe in possibilities, or we can remain in a cycle of making excuses, blaming others, and playing the victim. We can be either a victim or a victor. Anything worth having is worth striving for.
“Don’t get tired of doing good, for you will eventually see results, if you don’t give up.” —Paul in the letter to the Galatians
Pain has a way of getting our attention, doesn’t it? Whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, it has a way of grabbing us by the whatever hurts and reminding us of something… or someone.
“You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.” —Unknown
The same can be true of a physical wound. You may not want to look at it, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting. I tried to ignore an injury yesterday. I couldn’t see it, because I had extrication gloves on. I had accidentally smooshed my hand between the hydraulic cutter and the passenger side seat during a practical fire class on vehicle extrication. It ached, but I finished what I had started. Part of me didn’t want to take my glove off and look at it, but I did, so I could assess the damages. It seemed to be simply bruised, so I iced it with some nearby snow. It’s still a little sore today, but the bruising is barely noticeable now.
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” —C.S. Lewis
While I think it’s true that God sometimes allows pain to come into our lives in order to get our attention, I have experienced times when I believe He has ‘whispered’ or ‘spoken’ in my pain to comfort and console me, especially when the pain was caused by something or someone beyond my control. I am grateful for the pain I experienced from the extrication training, because it serves as a reminder to be fully aware during rescue operations. It would cause me greater pain if I caused someone else to be injured, especially if it was avoidable.
A couple of other minor injuries have also gotten my attention recently. I’m not accident prone… usually. Earlier this week, I fell on the ice and bruised my elbow while ice skating with my granddaughter and trying to demonstrate to one of her little friends that I could, indeed, twirl like she could. We don’t realize how much we use something until we injure it or lose it, but you know what grabbed my attention more than the smooshed hand and bruised elbow? A tiny crack in my index finger! Every time I accidentally touched it, it felt like a needle being shoved inside! I know, I know, “then don’t touch it”, right?
Whether it’s physical pain or emotional pain, sometimes that’s easier said than done.
“It shouldn’t be about societal rules, but about love,” my daughter remarked during a recent discussion. She had just spent a week overseas and was talking about how the young men treated her as compared to how some American guys have treated her and other girls especially within church and homeschool circles. In social groups that put a lot of emphasis on living according to rules, many boys and men seem to insist on taking on a task or helping a girl because it’s what they were taught about being a man or a gentleman. It’s not so much about loving or caring about the person as it is about “doing what’s right” and feeling like a man.
There’s a quote or meme going around that says, “A real woman can do it all by herself, but a real man won’t let her.”
I was recently talking with a couple of friends who are having trouble in their marriages. Although younger than I, one man had an older generation mentality of men being in control and making all the decisions. He had been taught that having wide shoulders and handling everything was the way to love his wife. I admire him for wanting to take care of her, but I tried to help him realize that although we women do want someone who will take care of us, we also want a life partner and to be valued as a partner. There was more, but that’s for a different blog post.
After yesterday’s practical fire class on ventilation and skills training, I thought more about what my daughter had said. Because I am small at only 5’1” tall, I have quite a few limitations when it comes to being a firefighter, but there are things I must try to do as part of the class, and some of those things I have to do by myself. During those times, I am grateful for my classmates’ and instructors’ encouragement and cheering me on. I am also grateful for their help when we work together as a crew, as well as when they ask if I’ve “got it” before they rush in to help.
A real woman can do it by herself, and a real man will let her if she wants to.
So when do you help a woman?
When she asks.
When she’s in danger.
When she’s tired or not feeling well.
When she doesn’t ask, but you know her well enough to know she needs and wants help.
How should you help a woman?
That depends. That, too, is for another blog post, but the bottom line is to do it out of a heart that loves and cares, and know her well enough to know how she wants to be helped.
(Shout out to my friend and firefighter brother, Nick, who helped me with setting up and shooting the photo. I was going to try to do it alone, but I’m so glad I asked for help, because trying to execute a self-portrait using the camera’s timer was really unrealistic, and although I probably could’ve gotten the 24’ ladder off of Engine 2, it would have been really difficult and potentially dangerous. Thank you, Nick!)
Have you ever really, really looked forward to something only to have things change and cause your heart to sink? Seems like I’ve been experiencing a greater share of disappointments lately. I thought I was already pretty flexible and spontaneous, but with encountering so many changes in plans, I can’t help but realize God’s hand at work, teaching me to become more adaptive and able to roll with the punches.
“If the rhythm of the drum beat changes, the dance step must adapt.”—African proverb
“The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.”—Zen proverb
Sometimes we become angry when something upsets our plans. The apostle James explained that we become angry and fight because we aren’t getting what we want. (James 4:1-3)
“Flexible people don’t get bent out of shape.”—Unknown
“Satisfied desire is sweet to a person; therefore, it is hateful and exceedingly offensive to fools to give up evil [upon which they have set their hearts].”—Proverbs 13:19 TAB
Sometimes even if we don’t realize it right away, a change in plans can actually work out better in some way, or at least in the long run. One example involved two events scheduled for the same day. I had planned on attending a “Blessing of the Bikes” with a friend, and had to change plans when a zip lining birthday celebration for my mother-in-law was scheduled for the same day. Because the zip lining event was originally scheduled for early afternoon, I felt free to take on partial duty coverage for one of my firefighter brothers. I agreed to cover from the night before up to a certain hour the next morning. The night before the zip lining event, I was informed that the reservation was for one hour after my duty would end, giving me no time to shower and travel to the destination. Then it was changed to the very hour my shift would end. Fortunately, my daughter was able to take my reservation. I also thought that since I could no longer participate, I could possibly go on the “Blessing of the Bikes” ride after all! The possibility did, indeed, exist, until it was decided that they would be departing half an hour before my shift ended. At least I was able to have breakfast with them! Things worked out well in the end. My daughter was able to take my place and go zip lining and celebrate with her Nana, and I was able to do driver trainer on one of the fire apparatus for the first time.
“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”—Proverbs 13:12 KJV
Another reason to be flexible, spontaneous, and able to adapt is because of love. I was talking to a former firefighter recently, and he related a time when he had come home late at night from a structure fire in -40° weather. He and his gear were frozen, and as he was thawing in the kitchen, his wife (at the time) complained that he was dripping all over the floor. Although it’s very likely as a firefighter’s wife, she had already faced many changes in plans and disappointments, to react in such a way to a frozen hero was… cold. Martin Luther said, “Faith, like light, should always be simple and unbending; while love, like warmth, should beam forth on every side, and bend to every necessity of our brethren.”
“Yielding flexibility is a virtue of an ever-expanding heart.”—Molly Friedenfeld, author
Ever heard of ‘The Broken Window Theory’? I hadn’t until a few months ago when our deputy chief referred to it during one of our fire department meetings. Although ‘The Broken Window Theory’ is based on the premise that disorder leads to crime, within the framework of the theory is a principle that can be found in the book of Proverbs.
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man. —Proverbs 24:30-34 KJV
Whether it’s a broken window, things left undone or out of place, or disintegrating relationships, it conveys a sense of complacency and apathy, and can become a new ‘normal’ if left neglected or disregarded. Those directly or indirectly involved are basically saying, “I don’t care enough,” or “It’s not my problem or responsibility,” or “We don’t feel led to get involved”. Neglect leads to disorder, disorder leads to chaos, and chaos leads to tragedy.
We are all a part of something, even if only a part of humanity. We all have a responsibility. If we want peace instead of chaos, happiness instead of sadness, beauty instead of ugliness, success instead of failure, and growth instead of decay, then the little things matter, and it’s up to us to take ownership and fix the broken windows.
A few nights ago my daughter and I watched a movie, and something one of the characters said caught my attention. I think it can apply to more than just the obvious situation, don’t you? The main character’s best friend said:
“Don’t choose the better guy, choose the guy that’s gonna make you the better girl.” —Trish in This Means War
So who do you want to be? What do you want to be? Are your current life choices keeping you from being the person you really are deep down inside? Are current relationships with people and organizations helping you grow or keeping you stunted?
“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” —C.S. Lewis, author
I’m not talking about being a snob. I’m talking about the people you include in your inner ring, your most intimate of friends from whom you seek advice and with whom there is mutual benefit and not just a one-sided relationship.
“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” —Proverbs 27:17
I’m also not talking about micromanaging our lives, and I know sometimes making the best choice isn’t always easy. After all, we’re human, and we make mistakes… sometimes, big ones. We cannot allow fear to keep us from making decisions either, because as Harvey Cox, an American theologian once said, “Not to decide is to decide.”
Don’t allow apathy to make the decision for you. Choose between what will keep you where you are or what will help you reach your goals.
Don’t just sit there. God cannot steer a car that isn’t moving.
“Are circumstances driving you, or are you controlling your circumstances?” —K. Scott Bonovich, author
It’s okay to say no.
Don’t kill yourself trying to fit into someone else’s mold. Do you want to be like them, or do you want to be you and who you believe God created you to be?
I recently made the decision to become a firefighter, and I am pursuing an education to become an EMT. I have been surprised by those who have been supportive from the beginning and those who are still not supportive to this day. One of my family members remarked that it seemed like the fire department had chosen me instead of my choosing the fire department. I assured her that it was my choice, and I worked hard studying the apparatus and equipment so that I could earn my shield and begin riding to assist and gain practical experience. Like anyone who has ever experienced great success, sometimes I had to decide between playing and working. I am grateful for those who also chose to work by taking the time to teach me. We played afterward.
“What are you prepared to do?” —Jimmy Malone in The Untouchables
How badly do you want it? What will it take to get it? Who do you want to be? It starts with a vision and then one decision after another.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” —Socrates, a character in Way of the Peaceful Warrior