I remember receiving a particularly good, solid kick in the guts some years ago. The kind that knocks the stuffing out of you. The kind that sends you reeling and leaves your head spinning.
It was the kind of kick that is so hard, it shakes loose your entire belief system, right down to your core, rattling every last bit of hope and certainty you ever had until they’re smashed to pieces.
I got up after the first kick, brushed the twigs and dirt off my clothes and carried on. Then I got a really brutal kick. It was much worst than the first. I wasn’t going to get up again. Figured there was no point.
But I dried my eyes, took a deep breath, and stood up. I decided that it had just been a test of faith, and as I used to be perfectionistic about tests, I wasn’t gonna do an “A-”. It had to be an “A” and therefore, I would prove that my faith was strong and solid.
So I squared my shoulders, laughed off the two solid kicks, and smiled, thinking “Bring it on!”
Okay, I guess "them was fightin’ words." I reckon I asked for the next kick. And the one after that. I suspected there would be several more in the near future (and I was right). I had the Universe pegged as more of a chess-player than a kick-boxer but apparently, I was wrong. Just one of many lessons in that whole situation.
When I was first looking at that test of faith, it was like I was looking at my spiritual beliefs as a strong and solid marble vase. I had relied on a particular set of beliefs for a long time, and although there were some additions and deletions of various specific parts down the years, the fundamental structure had not wavered.
That marble vase held all the fresh water and beautiful flowers I could put in it. I needed that vase because for me, life just wasn’t worth living without being able to enjoy the magnificent beauty of the flowers that it contained.
I loved my marble vase. It was perfect. I made it myself. I’d worked so hard on it and it had taken a few decades to create it, so it suited me exactly. It was so strong and solid, it never occurred to me that anything could break it. Or that anything would be horrible enough to try.
Although marble is extremely solid and durable, my beautiful vase became cracked. I continued pouring in lots of water to try to keep the flowers alive, but the water kept leaking out faster than I could refill the vase. The closer I looked, the more cracks I saw. And the flowers began to die.
At various points in that experience, I tried using epoxy adhesive to repair the cracks, but more appeared in other places. I’d got to the point of thinking the entire vase needed to be chucked. Not only did I not want to look at the vase any more, I didn’t even want to look at marble.
In fact, it got so bad, I was questioning whether or not I even wanted another vase.
One morning, I went to a favourite outdoor "retreat", needing connection with nature, with Mother Earth and the Universe in which she lives.
I sat and listened to the quiet wisdom of the herbs, the flowers, the thick lush trees. A soft rain began to fall, and as I felt the gentle drops on my skin, I appreciated that every one of them came from the heavens, a subtle yet powerful message about my connection with the Divine, and the knowledge that we are all spiritual beings and we are all connected to one another.
In such perfect surroundings, the answers began to come.
I remembered life before the vase. I remembered the horrible, dark feeling of being completely and utterly lost and alone, without spiritual beliefs, without that connection to the Divine, and to everyone else.
I knew I must look at the cracked marble vase again.
The way I saw it, I had only two choices. I could haul out the epoxy, repair the cracks and when I’d look at my beautiful vase, I would see them as ‘war wounds’, symbols of surviving my test of faith.
Or I could take a hammer to my marble vase and break it into pieces. I could put them together in a different way, perhaps using only some of them and connecting those pieces with beautiful bits of coloured glass or pretty stones. I could still see something of my original vase, but it would just be different. It might even be more beautiful than the original. And it would, in all likelihood, be much stronger than the first.
But one thing I knew for sure, whatever it would look like, I did need a vase. It was the whole point, the purpose, the reason for my existence.
So I hauled out the hammer. I found the coloured bits of glass and the pretty stones. I chose the best pieces of my lovely old marble vase and I created another that was unique and even stronger than the other one had been. It was daunting, yes, and even rather frightening to contemplate tearing apart my entire belief system, starting from scratch and constructing a new one.
It wasn't the first time I’d done it. And it wasn't the last. But I've survived it every time and that makes it easier each time I'm faced with the need for significant growth and change.