By Julie Lazanich
Have you ever gotten a gift you didn’t want?
New underwear for Christmas, peeps in your Easter basket when you really wanted chocolate, a shirt that isn’t your style, or a white elephant gift that you don’t know what to do with?
One time, I got a bathmat! Yes, you read that right. A stupid old bathmat as a gift! It was something I asked for, but I didn’t want it as a Christmas gift. I mean, it was a bathmat for Pete’s sake.
God sometimes does the same thing. Not giving us bathmats exactly, but giving us gifts that we don’t necessarily want.
As I begrudgingly listened to what my friends’ got in their stockings when we went back to school after Christmas break, that bathmat actually taught me a lot about patience. A desperate to fit in high-schooler, I was in agony not only listening to my friends, but trying to avoid their questions of “what did you get?!” And if you could imagine yourself as my dramatic teenage self here:
it was all Santa/my parents/God’s fault.
I would assume, most people like me, run as fast as they can at the first sign of suffering. Why else would I lather on 100 SPF to avoid the suffering a sunburn brings a pale person like me. I’m that person that pops unhealthy amounts of Vitamin C and Airborne as soon as the weather turns and I hear others coughing and sneezing.
In the pursuit of happiness, suffering is a stumbling block. I don’t like math, but this equation makes sense to me: less suffering means more happiness .
I’ll go out of my way to avoid suffering, like start work at 7 am instead of at the regular time of 8:45 am just to miss rush hour traffic. I thought suffering didn’t add much value to life and was the life-sucking evil twin to happiness until I was caught off guard by this statement from Stephen Colbert I read lately:
“I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”
This was in response to an interview question he had, where he shared he was 10 years old when his dad and two of his brothers were killed in a plane crash. Of course, he wished his dad and brothers were alive and with him still, but it took him years to accept that they weren’t and become grateful for what he did have in life. All of it.
Colbert is quick to acknowledge that he didn’t want the event to happen, but it’s what did happen. It’s reality. “I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.” That is a true statement from a person who has coped with their past and came to see the light in life from a dark place.
While I haven’t faced tragic loss like that, suffering through an assault and being a single mother because of it, I can confidently say now, like Colbert, that “I love the thing that I most wish had not happened." While I still suffer at times because of it, with anxiety and looming life questions,
accepting the reality and the unwanted gift of life at the time brought me something I hadn’t intended as well.
Joy. A special little dude to share life with, to laugh with and to celebrate with, even despite the suffering. “For this you have been called” says Peter in the reading. “Be patient--suffer for doing what is good.”
God called me to live this life--not any other one. To suffer through parts of it so I could discover love and joy in ways I hadn’t known possible before. To be in this lifelong process of being and becoming, of knowing my depths and limits, my capabilities and flaws, is to be fully human and fully alive. To be fully alive means to accept both my "human condition--which includes anxiety, suffering and death, limits and loss, pain and panic" (Rea McDonnell) as much as that sucks and to depend on God and trust in those around us to lift us up.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie is a recent grad of John Carroll University and has just started a research position at Jones Day law firm downtown. Aside from working 9-5, she spends her time with those that make her laugh most, especially her almost one year old, Carter James. Julie enjoys making sure others know how much they're loved and is always trying to spread God's gift of joy around. This may often include wine, sunshine, tacos, hot dogs, and replays of Lebron's legendary Game 7 block.