Sunday, December 14, 2014

(Not) Living on Easy Street

A few years ago, I would drive past a new development being built on my way to a co-op preschool some friends and I put together. (I use the term "co-op preschool" very loosely to mean, "we had the kids color a printable from EnchantedLearning.com before going off to play.")

From week to week, I watched the housing development's progress. They graded and paved a new road, started pouring foundations for the first house, and then the street sign went up: Easy Street.


Every time I passed Easy Street I'd think, Hey, I wouldn't mind living there!

But one day I looked below the street sign and saw that Easy Street was a dead end. It was literally a road that went nowhere.


Not a joke.

I went through the first, oh, 30 years of my life feeling that Easy Street was the default. Life was supposed to be linear, manageable, and basically predictable.

Of course there were occasional fires that needed to be put out, but you took care of them quickly and moved on with your real life of normalcy and order.

Henry B. Eyring, one of the leaders in my church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) must have been talking directly about me when he said:

There may be periods, sometimes long ones, when our lives seem to flow with little difficulty. But it is in the nature of our being human that comfort gives way to distress, periods of good health come to an end, and misfortunes arrive. Particularly when the comfortable times have gone on for a while, the arrival of suffering... [seems] unfair. The good health and the serene sense of being secure can become to seem deserved and natural.

Well, that's me in a nutshell. I've had a pretty easy life. Cue the "misfortunes arrive" part.

When I was 20 weeks pregnant with my fifth baby, we found through a routine ultrasound that I had placenta previa.

My placenta, apparently not having gotten the memo that it was supposed to attach up at the top of my uterus, settled squarely at the bottom, blocking the baby's way out completely.

After four perfectly uneventful births (four!), I couldn't believe I was going to have a C-section. I hated everything about this idea.

I knew I should be grateful for modern technology, so we could even detect this condition so I didn't go into labor and end up hemorrhaging.

I tried being thankful for modern medicine that could even offer C-section as an alternative to a death sentence.

But it didn't work, and I was still crazy upset about it even months after it happened. There were complications, and it had been really scary, and recovery was hard. I was left with a long, itchy scar and a wide band of numbness on my abdomen that Phillip calls my "dead zone."

Part of the reason I couldn't accept what had happened was that it didn't fit with the idea that life is "supposed" to go smoothly and that things like this aren't "supposed" to happen.

Except I know that really isn't true. Trials and adversity are a part of life. More than that, they're necessary for God to achieve His purposes for us. They're like a refining fire that makes us softer and more malleable to His will, and we come out stronger in the end.

When Jesus and his disciples passed a blind man in John 9:1-3, his disciples wanted to know "Who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" Like me, they assumed that his blindness was a blight on what otherwise would've been a normal life. It must have been a punishment, because why else would someone's life include tribulation?

Maybe it's human nature to assume that. But Jesus, having a better perspective (being the Son of God and all,) answered "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

It wasn't that the blind man's handicap was a punishment or even a bad thing. It was a way the works of God could shine through in him.

What is God's 'work?' It's bringing us closer to Christ and making us stronger, wiser, more faithful, more pure. And happier, in the end. When we go through the tough stuff, it's a perfect time to allow God to do that holy work.

We let Him do it when we turn to Him in faith. Something about tribulation opens up our capacity to lean on God, to a degree we otherwise couldn't (or wouldn't?) if we lived on Easy Street.

Maybe that's why it's not in the plan for us to spend our whole lives there: there's a limit to how far that road can take us.

To be honest, I still want to believe that a life of ease is the norm and tribulation is a just a temporary nuisance that gets in the way. I'm trying to see more clearly that although life is beautiful, trials are built into it so I can let God's work take place in me.

A truly happy life isn't one where nothing hard ever happens to you, it's one where you've overcome adversity and turned to God for strength.

Easy Street is overrated.

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8 comments:

  1. I agree. Most days I wonder what happened to the nice boring life I think I would have been happy to have. There is a picture on our wall, a painting of a farm and farm house. I dream of life there - cleaning house, going to the garden, gathering eggs .. all before breakfast because the kids could be sent outside to play without worry of cars driving by or one kid following someone walking their dog. It is a nice boring life where I would get excited about adding a new flower to the yard. Then I realize, in that nice boring life, where everything turns out like it is supposed to, I would not be growing as a person, growing to love and rely more upon God. It really would be more depressing than I like to dream it would be. Besides, if think happened like I thought they should, I would not have the boys I do right now.

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    1. Funny how that works. If you take away the bad, you'd also have to take away the good. Life doesn't let us selectively choose.

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  2. What a well written piece.
    I believe sometimes life throws us a curve ball because we are meant to have it, we need to experience it for some reason or another for the bigger picture. I also believe we are only given as much as we can truly handle/ manage - sometimes that is not easy street.
    Enjoy the journey
    Thanks for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop

    Lydia xx

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    1. I believe that too, but I also wonder because I know people who seem to have WAY more than they can handle!

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  3. Beautiful post, Jenny! You share such wisdom and truth. Thank you. Easy street is easy, but it really doesn't get us anywhere. While I don't love being in the midst of trials and tribulations, I love knowing that God is with me through them and that I will be more like Him in the end.

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  4. So, so true! Easy St makes people lazy, and ungrateful!!

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    1. I have definitely seen that in my own life!

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  5. This had a profound impact on me. Thank you for sharing your testimony!

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