We were talking yesterday about a recent tragedy and how overwhelming and overpowering despair can cloud our judgment and cause us to think and do things that defy reason and sanity. As the child of a parent with bipolar disorder I’ve had more experience than most with the effects of hopelessness and depression. Thankfully my mother had the support of a loving family and friends and usually managed to lead a positive and satisfying life. However, there were times when she needed medical help and she never kept that a secret. She wrote about it, talked about it, and counseled others about their needs.
The times that were often the most difficult for my mother to endure were family troubles which she could not control or financial problems she could not improve. Mom was a great peacemaker and she hated family disputes. She also knew that certain actions lead to heartache and self-destruction and she spent a lot of time in prayer for family members. She experienced a lot of ups and downs financially and always said her early upbringing taught her the skills she needed to “make do” with whatever she had. But I know that some periods of financial trouble weighed more heavily on her than others.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the lessons I learned from my mother and other family members. I suppose that’s one of the things that naturally occur when you lose someone important to your life. You do a lot of remembering and reminiscing because there is nothing else left- no more conversations, no more experiences, no more opportunities to learn. You must rely forever on what has already taken place.
The greatest lesson I learned from observing my mother is that any event- good, bad, or even ugly- is but one piece of a life. However caught up in the moment we may become, however tragic any one event may seem at the time, however overwhelming and never-ending a situation may feel, it is truly only a small portion of our life. I like to think of the “crazy” quilts my grandmother used to make. She used random pieces of fabric leftover from all of her sewing projects and even threw in a few pieces she salvaged from old clothing. They were cut in dozens of sizes and shapes. She put them together any which way and somehow they blended into a quilt that was both beautiful and useful. If any one piece was less lovely than another it wasn’t noticeable. The whole was what commanded attention.
Yes, one piece of your life may be horribly out of control. One mistake may have you on the brink of darkness and despair. But realizing you’ve made a mistake and moving on to better decisions and fewer mistakes IS possible. Asking for help can be a blessing to you and to others. Improving your situation a tiny bit can pave the way for tremendous changes and can ultimately result in a life of peace and joy. As long as we have life there is hope that we can put the pieces of our life together into something beautiful and useful. The Bible doesn’t tell us stories of perfect people in perfect situations leading perfect lives. It tells us of people who endured and overcame. It tells us of people who turned from sin to salvation. It gives us confirmation that no matter what happens we have hope.