“. . . the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They are there to stop the other people . . . Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”
~ Randy Pausch ~
Over lunch recently, I told a very dear friend, “I feel as though I have emerged from a very long and very dark tunnel. And the light out here is extremely bright. My eyes have to get adjusted to it.”
Not long ago, I told that same friend for about the zillionth time in the past year or so, “I feel like I just keep hitting my head against the same brick wall over and over.”
“Hang in there,” she responded numerous times. “Hold on. You’re going to be fine. You’ll see. You’re going to come out on top. Your future is bright.”
At times, it was very hard to hang in there. That brick wall was extremely sturdy. It took me a long time to break it down. I had to find the one spot where it was structurally vulnerable and then take advantage of that weakness, exploiting it to my advantage by chipping away one brick at a time until it collapsed entirely.
“But as for me, I will look to the Lord and confident in Him I will keep watch; I will wait with hope and expectancy for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)
Depressed and discouraged, I kept going through the motions, but my heart was “not in it” and I had no enthusiasm for the tasks at hand. For the first time in my life, I understood how people feel when they describe themselves as “adrift.” Some days all I wanted to do was sleep and at other times, sleep simply would not come. I was living in a constant state of exhaustion, dragging myself from one place to another.
Old friends were polite, but I came to recognize the looks of concern on their faces. I caught them studying my face when they thought I wasn’t looking. I’m sure they were secretly asking themselves if they too appeared to be as old as they thought I had begun looking. They began routinely asking about my health, questioning whether or not I was undergoing regular check-ups, suggesting that I contact my personal physician and schedule my long-overdue annual examination.
After awhile, you almost get used to living that way. Almost. I am convinced that when you become acclimated to feeling beaten down, ineffective, and perpetually frustrated, and accept that your dreams have been permanently derailed, you have arrived at a place from which a return to normalcy is nothing short of miraculous.
The context of my struggle is not germane. Suffice it to say that it recently ended.
The important questions are these: What did I learn from the time I spent feeling upset, disappointed, frustrated, and depressed? How will I avoid ever going through such a difficult time again? Or will I?
What I’ve learned is that, as Randy Pausch states, brick walls only curtail the efforts of those who do not want to achieve their goals badly enough to endure whatever trials are necessary in order to succeed. Yes, I hit my head against the same brick wall over and over for a period of more than three years. At first, your head gets bruised and a bit swollen. But over time, as you bang away at various points along the wall, looking for that one loose brick that will enable you to finally start the process of dismantling it brick by brick, you know that you are going to reopen old wounds that are going to bleed profusely and cause you to experience enormous pain. After awhile, I questioned my own determination, wondering if my efforts would prove, ultimately, to be futile ad if I was willing to risk the pain in order to find the answer.
I’ve also learned that you will break through the wall not on your own schedule, but in accordance with the Spirit’s time frame.
Sometimes hope is the only thing you have left. It is all you can cling to. Faith is the manifestation of hope and hopefulness, and sustains you through the darkest days imaginable. I literally survived the darkest period in my life by reading and willing myself to believe Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I constantly reminded myself that the Divine Creator had never let me down before — and would not do so in my current circumstances. I would look in the mirror and tell myself exactly what my good friend told me over and over and over: “There is something in store for me. This situation is leading me to something wonderful. I have to continue on this path and I will eventually see the purpose, the lesson that I need to learn. I have worked too hard for too long to quit now.”
Then I would add: “So show me soon, already, will ya? I don’t know how much longer I can hold on.” I didn’t know, but the all-knowing Divine Creator did.
Have you ever watched a brick wall collapse? Blow after blow seems inconsequential, but then it suddenly falls apart loudly and decisively, the heap of bricks left strewn on the ground serving as the only reminder of the once seemingly-impenetrable fortress.
A new opportunity manifests itself just as quickly and resolutely. Suddenly, you see “the big picture.” You appreciate that you would not be standing where you are had you not followed the path that seemed, at the time, to be heading in the opposite direction from where you wanted to end up. You see how one event made it possible for another to occur, for you to meet someone you otherwise would never have encountered, and prepared you to say “yes” when the appropriate time arrived. In retrospect, it all makes “perfect sense” and you wonder why you did not see the divine blueprint for your life sooner.
You might have wanted something very badly and never obtained it because it was not meant for you. In my case, the goal I set for myself was not the correct one. I see that now. Instead, I achieved something far more suitable and, for the long term, satisfying. Along the way, while I was frustrated, upset, and despondent, certain people touched my life — and I had the privilege to impact theirs. Had my life unfolded in the way I originally desired, we would never have interacted, but the fact that we did has enriched me and, hopefully, them.
It is very bright here in the sunlight, but I am soaking up the rays and getting a fabulous tan just as summer is finally coming to beautiful Northern California.
And now I must get busy cleaning up an unsightly pile of bricks.
Thanks to Anja Merret for including this article in the July 6, 2008 Blog Carnival of Observations of Life at Anja Merret: Chatting to My Generation; Dandelions and Daydreams for including it in the July 2008 Carnival of Christian Women; and Pinkblocks for including it in the Blog Carnival on Personal Power at pinkblocks.