I’ve been sitting here staring at a screen for hours now, flicking back and forth between the black and white manuscript for my novel, and the real stories that have filled my ears the past few days.
I’ve been blessed to hear a lot of voices share a lot of experiences this week; testimonies of heartache, redemption, struggle, forgiveness and new beginnings. Most of us have some form of personal struggle. Though what’s monumental to one may seem like nothing to another, it doesn’t make these challenges any less significant. Honestly, I’ve found that if it affects you, it matters, no matter how trivial it may seem.
But recognizing these struggles is only half the battle. The other half is choosing how we’ll face it. For years I sought to name the weird tangle of emotions that lives inside of me with the hope of gaining a better understanding of what it was and how to face it. I heard terms and explanations, but it never felt entirely right to claim them. I was afraid by doing so, they would define me, and I would use these terms as an excuse to learn to live with something I’d rather conquer.
Listening to the people I met (and “re-met”) this week, and watching them achieve things that others labeled “impossible” or “hopeless” only reaffirmed my belief that we are bigger than the labels we bear. That Hope is powerful, Love is miraculous, and impossible… is really just a word.
As much as I wish I did, I don’t always believe those last six words. There are some days the things we are so certain of can fade into ambiguity. The images of Truth and Hope appear like a photograph that’s out of focus. But it doesn’t mean it’s no longer there, or what we once viewed as true has faded into falsehood.
More often than not, it just means we’re out of focus.
Emotions can be blinding, especially when they’re painful. Yet in moments like these, I find silence is a great teacher. When I still my tongue and really begin to listen, my mind and heart expand to the voices around me. Suddenly I see beyond my own narrow scope that’s centered around me and my problems, and I realize the things I’m wrestling with are more universal than I give them credit for.
This is why I often take hope in other people’s stories. They remind me of what’s possible, and what’s important. Like the significance of being present and being part of a community; the fact that we always have a choice, and that choice is powerful; the role of faith within ourselves, each other and a Higher Power, and the realization that our outlook can mean everything.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Romans, Chapter 5:
“…Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” – Romans 5:3-5
Some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever encountered in life were the ones who have endured hardship. I love to sit beside them and hear their stories because they prove to me that struggle doesn’t have to define us. Instead, it can refine us.
And we become better people because of it.