February 17. 2017
One of the greatest of life's skills to be learned is distinguishing between problems to be solved and trials to be endured. Many otherwise smart people have expended themselves trying to solve trials that are humanly unchangeable. I think Christians are particularly vulnerable to this kind of thinking. Christians are people of faith, at least theoretically, and are conditioned to believe that "with God all things are possible." Our Scriptures even tell us as much, and there are enough biblical examples of miracles to convince us that there is nothing that cannot be changed with enough prayer and faith.
Alas! Life is not always so simple. St. Peter tells us that there is a trial of our faith that is more precious than gold, and that leads to praise, honor, and glory (1Peter 1:7). Such trials often look like problems to be solved, and when we see them this way, we go about trying to solve something that God himself has ordained for our ultimate good. It does no good to try to pray away something difficult God has given us. Some difficulties are not problems; they are trials. How we handle them depends on which they are.
Such life skills are best learned when we are young. Problems are meant to be solved. We apply our best wisdom and skill to them, whether they be problems of engineering, medicine, psychology, politics, relationships, or religion. Successful solutions benefit us all. On the other hand, people who try to solve trials end up in frustration, which leads often to loss of faith, disillusionment, anger, and blaming.
Five-year-old Gemma LOVES her Peter Rabbit game. Think Chutes and Ladders, only more expensive. The ladders are rabbit trails that take you closer to home. The chutes are rabbit holes down which you drop to a previous level. Almost every time Gemma comes over, she wants to play. At first, if she fell down a rabbit hole, it was a major catastrophe for her. Until she watched Linda repeatedly fall down the rabbit holes, laughing about it all the way. Tonight was no exception. Linda went down the same rabbit hole three times in a single game. We all laughed, and Gemma is unwittingly learning.
Life is full of rabbit holes. The roll of the dice sends us unexpectedly tumbling, and if we take it to heart, or aren't anticipating them, they become problems that we become frantic to solve. Problem is, you can't solve a rabbit hole. They are just there, and sooner or later, we all fall into one. Sometimes repeatedly. We merely endure it, climb out, and roll the dice for the next move. At five years, Gemma is learning a lesson many adults have never mastered. Rabbit holes aren't pleasant, but they also aren't fatal unless we make them so by giving up or getting mad. Sometimes it's best to just laugh it off, dust ourselves off, and roll again. I'm grateful tonight for a simple children's game that is teaching an important life lesson at a time in her life when it's easiest to learn. It's bed time now, but tomorrow, we'll get up, roll life's dice again, and head off down the path, hoping to avoid the rabbit hole, perhaps wandering into Mr. McGregor's garden (THAT's a problem to be solved!), moving space by space, a little closer to home.