A couple days back, I wrote an entry titled, Cycles of Life. In that entry, I discussed the four stages of change, and the experiences I had in September of last year when I spent three days in the ICU due to respiratory failure, and seven more before I was released.
Today, I decided to cover each of these four stages in more detail, discussing one each day for the next four days. I will start with the first stage, which is the stage of Experience. What is an ‘experience’, and how does it differ from the usual flow of daily life? Well, it doesn’t differ. Everything is an experience. Some of them are small and have little importance, while others capture our attention and remain in our memories for years.
Every experience we have, from the two minute encounter with a rude cashier at the grocery store, to the day we get married, have a child, start a business, or any other memorable moment, are all there for one reason. They guide us. They either give us an example of something we want to move towards, or something we want to move away from.
That two minute encounter with the rude cashier? Ask yourself, how did you respond to the next person you encountered? Did you go out of your way a little to make sure that encounter was a better one? Or maybe you did something internal, like decide to shop somewhere different next time. And, though you might not have realized it at the time, something about you changed because of that encounter.
Now, I admit, a two minute encounter with someone will very rarely be a life changing experience. But, it doesn’t have to be. Remember, it is simply there as a guide. Just ask yourself how many two minute (or even shorter) encounters you have with people in each day.
The guy who cuts you off on the freeway –“I don’t want to be like him!” The lady next to you on her phone at the store – “I can’t believe she said that out loud!” The woman at the dog park – “I wish I could get my dog to behave that well.” And these are people you didn’t even speak to!
Each one of those encounters left a tiny impression on you. You might not remember them a week from now, or even an hour from now, but that’s okay. They weren’t meant to be long-lasting, life-changing events. You see, God works through each of us in a very similar way to a sculptor works with marble. They chip away, piece by piece, until the sculpture is revealed.
Now, you might be wondering about where Free Will is in all of this. Aren’t we given the opportunity to create our own life? To choose the direction we want to go in? Of course we are. Just not in the realm of Experience. We don’t get to choose what happens around us, just how we respond.
This is where most people get stuck in life. Something happens to them, and they never choose a response. They don’t believe that everything happens for a reason. When something sad or painful happens, they just take it as part of life. Maybe they believe they are cursed, or that they have bad luck, or that nothing good ever happens to them, and so they don’t look for the deeper meaning.
When this happens, especially if the event was one God had intended to help them change, they usually wind up having the same or very similar experience again, and again. It took me three failed businesses before I realized that I was never meant to run a business. I walked away from dozens of jobs, never spending more than a couple years doing anything, before I finally realized that I’m not supposed to work for someone else.
And, I kept finding myself in situations where I was drawn to be an author, and yet never followed that dream. Until now. Finally, my life makes sense. It fits. Simply because I started listening and learning from the experiences I was having. The small, and the large. I began to understand. But that is a topic for tomorrow.