Life is difficult! Living is even more difficult!

Have you ever had an experiences that remind you of a 100 foot bungee jump using a 120 foot bungee cord? You look down and feel the adrenalin building throughout your body. Then you feel a twinge of fear as you take a step out into thin air. As you drop down and down and down, as the excitement builds and the adrenalin rush gets more and more and more intense. Looking up you see your drop point getting smaller and smaller then SMACK and everything goes black! And seconds later in broad daylight you can see stars swirling around and around and around you aching head. Several minutes later lying flat on your back you open your eyes and at the top of your lungs you scream, “What the hell happened?”

I’ve never been bungee jumping and believe you me it won’t ever happen either but I wrote the imaginary scenario you just read from experience. On more than one occasion I might add. If you have followed any of my writings then you’re probably aware of some of those experiences. If your new to my writings I’ll list a couple of them: 12 hip operations, quad coronary artery bypass surgery, a heart attack, all four arteries that were bypassed plugged again, pulmonary Fibrosis, prostate cancer, and a couple of other minor things. But the one that stands out the most the SMACK and everything goes black experience that tops them all is the broken dream of moving to our beloved Townsend, Tennessee following my retirement. When our dream SMACKED intothe ground with full force and our dream died living has become more difficult than either Patti or I could have ever imagined. (There are times when we need to keep our dreams alive even though they may never become real.)

I suppose a title filled with a great deal of negativity is no way to begin an article with the ultimate goal in mind of fueling you up for your life journey of hope. While the title does have “a flavor” of negativity it also has “a flavor” of reality because every upward journey starts at the bottom. However, before going on I need to add more negativity to what is already negative: Life does not get easier! Living does not get easier either! Yet with all the negativity popping off like the finale of a Fourth of July fireworks show and we side with “The Preacher”…

“Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2–8, NLT)

We need to remember that all that glitters with negativity is not always negative. Please read on.

However, before do so I would like us to think about the title once more before we do so I can explain what I mean by Life and Living. Life is what we have, it is a beating heart, a thinking brain, expanding lungs, eyes that see, ears that hear, hands that feel, and legs and feet that move us. Living is what we not only do with the Life we have but also what we do with it in the world in which we exist. Life is what we have, living is what we do!

My favorite scripture is found chapter 6 of John’s gospel, “The Spirit is the one who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:63, LEB, emphasis mine) My life is based and anchored on the “proven circumstantial evidence” of a living/working relationship with the Holy Spirit. John 6:63 has such a powerful impact my life I wouldn’t be surprised if the surgeons ever opened up my chest again and operated on my heart they find that scripture etched on the surface of my heart. Not only does the Spirit gives life, He also gives us every resource (blessing) needed to untie the bungee cord from around our ankles, jump up off the ground, shake off the dust, and begin living again.

The one thing many people are looking to receive from the Holy Spirit is to replace the difficulties with living on easy street. I hate to be the one who rains on anybody’s parade but that is not what Jesus said about living, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT) I don’t know about you but that sure doesn’t sound like living on easy street to me.

Dr. M. Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Traveled wrote something that has intrigued me since the day I first read it. He wrote, “Life is difficult but once you realize life is difficult it is no longer difficult.” I am not sure I have it worded the same as it appeared in the book but I’m pretty close. Here’s the question I keep asking myself especially when things are not going as well I as I’d like them, “Why is living no longer difficult just because I realize living is difficult?” After thinking long and hard and at the same time acknowledging my relationship with the Holy Spirit I offer the following as how I understand Dr. Peck’s premise.

Difficulties associated with living are more of an illusion than a reality. Illusion fueled by anxiety or full blown fear will stop one in their tracks. To help understand the relationship between living, difficulties, illusions, anxieties, and reality let’s go back to the bungee jumping example. You’re standing at the edge anticipating taking that faithful first step, the bungee cord is solidly in place after being reassured all will go well you take that fateful step out into the path of gravity. Then a couple of heartbeats later you decide this whole experience is way too difficult for you. But the reality is you’re not equipped to defy the power of gravity and the bungee cord doesn’t come with airbrakes.

The trouble with reality is that it does not go away and not only does it not go away it can be distorted, manipulated, and denied but whatever one does with it is, what is really happening. However, the “neat” thing about reality is it is not an end in itself because along with the ways I just mentioned it contains many possibilities and when embraced with a positive attitude it opens up new avenues for living. And it is those new avenues upon which I believe Dr. Peck bases his premise that once we realize living is difficult it is no longer difficult because the difficult situations become challenges filled with new possibilities.

The apostle Paul drops a HUGE hint at what I mean (please note the emphasized portion), “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17–19, ESV) On September 17, 2013 in an operating room at St. John’s Providence Hospital while undergoing coronary artery by-pass surgery I became a new creation, the old had passed away and the new had come. While the new would not be as physically fit as the old never-the-less I was a new creature filled with new challenges and possibilities. The new challenges and possibilities would not only call upon my relationship with the Holy Spirit but also put my “proven circumstantial evidence” to its ultimate test.

When I think about how things were prior to 1981 when my health difficulties began making living difficult and all the difficulties we’ve (my wife Patti and I) been through since I can honestly say living is much more difficult. HOWEVER! The difficulties we now face while physical in nature no longer impact our living negatively but instead not only strengthen our marriage and our personal relationship with each other but also our relationship with Jesus as well. Before moving on I need to add one more experience to the mix. I love the way the Psalmist describes our response to our difficulties today, in 2016. “I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.” (Psalm 42:7–8, NLT)

Remember the bungee cord scenario from above? Let’s add one more player to scenario, let’s add the Holy Spirit and put Him at the SMACK point keeping in mind that since the Holy Spirit is a Spirit you can’t see Him, and before jumping as you look down you remember the “proven circumstantial evidence” thing. And the “pce” thing reminds you, “The Lord is your protection; you have made God Most High your place of safety. Nothing bad will happen to you; no disaster will come to your home. He has put his angels in charge of you to watch over you wherever you go. They will catch you in their hands so that you will not hit your foot on a rock.” (Psalm 91:9–12, NCV) So you jump into thin air and fall 100 feet attached to a 120 foot bungee cord right into the waiting arms of your protector. And suddenly what was once a difficulty is no longer difficult even though the situation may remain the same.

On a personal note. I have discovered that those dreams that live in our imaginations never really go away, and some shouldn’t go away. What happens is life tries to replace them with reality. While this may not be true with others there are times when for me reality gets to “heavy” and I need to escape to a more manageable place, which is where my imagination comes in. For me the imagination provides me a place of temporary sanctuary where I can regroup and connect with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes my imagination takes me to the Smoky Mountains, sometimes it’s over to our local township park, sometimes it takes me into a good movie, and sometimes it takes me into the stories of the bible.

Grace and PEACE,

Gary

_________________

“Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.”

“Scriptures marked NCV quoted from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.”

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