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Brevard waterfall

I’m responding to a request to reprint this essay from “Organizing for the Spirit“…

Several years ago, a series of unexpected events tossed me out of Life Cruise mode, and into the cold rapids of Uncharted Reality. A good friend counseled me to grab onto the only thing I could–my faith that things would work out the way they were supposed to–and just hang on. In other words, use trust as my life preserver.

I’ve never forgotten this advice, and fortunately haven’t had to use it too often. But every time I do, I’m both amazed at and comforted by its power to get me through whatever requires navigation.

Crises test our beliefs, and I’m pretty sure that they occur when they do as a way of showing us what we’re made of; they make us walk our talk and demonstrate how far we’ve come since the last time our foundation was shaken. We’d much rather do without them, of course, but handled correctly, they can lift us to the next level of our growth.

Crises can range from small, unpleasant surprises to (literally) earth-shattering events. We may just be knocked off-balance, or thrown to the ground. But in every case, our feelings of security are at least momentarily derailed. And that’s what can prove to be so terrifying.

“This isn’t supposed to be happening,” we tell ourselves. “I didn’t bargain for this; I didn’t plan for it. I did everything I was supposed to do and knew how to do. It isn’t fair.” We’ve all experienced the shock and disbelief of events occurring, big or little, for which we don’t feel prepared. Our first reaction probably is to fight the unwelcome reality, but our success in dealing with it will, in large part, depend on how quickly we can move to the next stage–acknowledgement.

With acknowledgement comes the acceptance that yes, the event has indeed occurred. We are no longer on the boat; we are in the rapids. And we have a choice: we can resist by frantically attempting to swim backwards, or we can flow with the current and see what our options are. And to flow or float, we need a life preserver.

By accepting trust as that life preserver, we’ve enabling ourselves to relax and assess the situation without wasting all of our energy flailing about. We need that energy, and all of our wits about us, because sometimes we’re tossed overboard for a reason that’s not immediately apparent. Very often there’s something hidden in the depths that can be of use to us, but when we refuse to accept that a change or reversal has happened, we limit our ability to learn or develop or benefit from the knowledge we gain.

If you can trust that things do often happen for a reason, you’re in a position to see things from a different perspective, and look for whatever messages there might be for you.

I’ve found that many times we settle for what we think we can get, instead of going after what we really want. Or we underestimate our talents, or value, and don’t utilize those assets that would be so helpful to others. Or we assume that we know how things are supposed to work out, and ignore messages to the contrary. And, therefore we need to be tossed into the river from time to time in order to shake up our perceptions, and ultimately move forward.

Sometimes the message is that we should be doing things differently. Maybe we need to appreciate certain things more. Or certain people. Maybe we’re being told that our timing is not right. Maybe we have to learn the value of patience, or honesty, or kindness, self-love or humor. Maybe we just have to learn to weather adversity with dignity and faith.

We’re all here to learn our own special lessons and we can do so, much more easily and with more grace, if we heed those messages. At the very least, we should “look” for positive information in whatever form it might come. Not every cloud has that silver lining, but we’ll never find what could be there if we don’t seek it out.

Having trust doesn’t mean that everything will necessarily work out the way you want it to. Having trust means that you know that you are being supported through your ordeal, and that if you are patient and perceptive, you’ll find a way to persevere. You’ll come out stronger, maybe wiser, and hopefully with a greater sense of peace.

One Response to "Using Trust as a Life Preserver"

  1. Tina Clark

    September 27, 2007

    Not only do I attempt to maintain my trust level that things will work out as they are meant to be but that I am thankful and grateful for an opportunity to grow, to learn and for change. Life would be so boring if nothing ever happened! I also realize that many life experiences are hard and can last for a long time and that it isn’t easy to be trusting much less thankful until time has passed to put it all in perspective.

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