“Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep the faith. It will all be worth it in the end.” – Unknown
“Openly share what you’re going through and what you’re learning with the world,” the little voice in my head kept nudging. “But this has nothing to do with my profession and with what I’m supposed to write about! And on top of it, people will know I don’t have my act together,” I argued. “They will be relieved to hear that you struggle, too. And how you’re coming out on the other side stronger for it. This experience is not just meant for you alone,” the voice came back.
And so here I am, sharing with you how during one of the most difficult moments of my life I’m finding hope, purpose and strength to go on. I’m actually learning to embrace what is happening to me right now!
I’ve been struggling with a feeling of emptiness and overall dissatisfaction with life for the past few months. In my everyday life I’ve often found myself feeling sad and lacking the joy I’d known so well in previous years. I’ve been settling.
To provide you with some background…
I had been a volunteer worker for over eight years, living and working together with a team of volunteers united by an exciting common vision: bringing encouragement and tangible help to underprivileged people and making the world a better place. It was a fulfilling time in my life.
Then things in our volunteer community changed drastically, bringing with it a big change in my lifestyle. My boyfriend and I went to live on our own. We strived to align our new lifestyle with furthering the cause that meant so much to us, but things turned out to be much different and harder than expected.
We struggled to find our new place in the world professionally, personally and socially. The changes meant we had to start from scratch financially, make new friends and find meaningful careers in line with what was important to us.
There was a lot to be taken care of. Looking back now, I can see how these temporary concerns and worries caused me to settle for less than I knew I desired, causing me to stagnate.
I had slowly gotten far from what I had always felt called to do with my life: making a contribution in others’ lives in a significant way.
This dissatisfaction with not living out my purpose accumulated in my heart over time. Yet, things did not really come to a turning point until a few days ago I received some news that totally crushed me emotionally. This was the moment when the walls of my life collapsed like a house of cards. I was devastated.
The only thing I could do was to turn to God and ask for help. And suddenly, a vision popped into my mind.
In a flash I saw different areas of my life being burnt down like fields that are subjected to “shifting cultivation” (a method farmers use to make soil more fruitful).
Each field being burnt represented a certain aspect of my life turning into ashes. I could sense the heat of the flames and smell the smoke. It was all so real. I felt like I was dying.
Suddenly, it all made sense. Something in me was dying! Things were going to ashes in my life.
The vision continued. There, in the grey, seemingly lifeless field new life started to grow. Different plants grew in accelerated motion until the whole area was brimming with life and color.
What a revelation and comfort that was. The pain and suffering had seemed so meaningless before. But now I understood that every single “plant” in my life turning into ashes was necessary. It was preparing the soil for something new and better!
And now, with this new perspective, I’m able to welcome those flames and let them have their way, knowing they are my allies for change.
Here are four key points that have particularly stuck with me from this experience:
- Beauty will come from the ashes. While my life currently looks like a dry and lifeless field, from that burnt soil new life will grow.
- I’m learning to let go of how I think things are supposed to turn out. Surprisingly, the experience seems to become less painful to go through because of that. And in letting go, I’m asking: What opportunity that I haven’t seen before is life bringing along?
- Tough times shake me up. They force me out of my comfort zone to make the changes that I’d never thought of making otherwise.
- This pain has a purpose and meaning. I’m not going through it “for nothing.” It is all necessary and important. Just like with a staircase, I won’t get to the top unless I start at the bottom, taking one step at a time. There’s no way around it
Having said all this, will it keep being painful? Yes.
Will it be over right away? Probably not.
But now I can move ahead, knowing that there’s a purpose in it all. And honestly, I can’t wait to see what beauty will grow from the ashes!