Thursday, October 31, 2013

obstacle or opportunity

To be able to look backward and say, "This, this has been the finest year of my life"--that is glorious!  But anticipation!  To be able to look ahead and say, "The present year can and shall be better!"--that is more glorious!
                                                                                ~Frank Laubach


Do you typically look forward with a sense of excitement or a sense of dread?  My guess is that the answer to this question has a lot to do with the what that you are actually facing in the days, weeks, or months ahead.  I have found recently that I seem to look forward to most things, but that there are always a few things looming out there that fill me with a sense of dread and drain the life and joy out of--or at the very least overshadow--those things that I am excited about and looking forward to.  It is strange the power I give these things I dread, that I would allow them to rob me, and determine both my mood and my mindset for weeks, if not months, in advance.  I think it has a lot to do with how I see things. 

When Frank Laubach wrote the quote above, it was after one of the hardest, loneliest years of his life.  But somehow, even in the midst of such a difficult place and time, he was able to see the beauty of it all, and what God was at work doing both in and through him.  And not only was he able to see the beauty of the past, but he was able to look forward to the year to come with equal optimism and enthusiasm.  This optimism is not just a blind, unfounded, baseless sense that "things will all be okay," but a deep trust in and recognition of the fact that, as Romans 8 reminds us, "In all things God works...."  Therefore, those things, either in our distant past or our foreseeable future, can be seen in one of two ways.  They can either be viewed as obstacles, or as opportunities.

Now, I will have to admit, that more often than not when I look to those things on the horizon that cause me a significant amount of angst, or anxiety, or fear, I typically look at them as obstacles that must be overcome--or at the very least tolerated and survived--rather than as opportunities for God to show up and work in amazing and transforming ways.  And how I look at these things has everything to do with the attitude, or outlook on life, I carry with me until those things have come to pass or been laid to rest.  I have found that when I view things--and sometimes even people to be honest--as obstacles, I tend to live life with a constant sense of frustration and irritation.  And when I look under the surface of those negative feelings, it just gets uglier.  Because I have found that for myself, underneath this obstacle-oriented viewpoint, lies a spirit of entitlement, demandingness, ingratitude and self-centeredness.  You talk about ugly.  That is really ugly.

In stark contrast, when I am able to make the transition to seeing these things more as opportunities--both for God to work and for me to love--I live from a much more beautiful place; that place exhibited in the life of Frank Laubach.  It allows me to live life with a sense of joy and anticipation and excitement, which breeds a spirit of gratitude, and humility, and peace.  All of life becomes a gift and the pursuit of life becomes a joyful adventure in being loved by God and loving him in return.

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