Many of us, in our daily life, encounter small adversities regularly. We don’t even blink as we overcome trials and difficulties, pushing through to the end result. These small events can be as simple as spilling your coffee, stepping in gum, or encountering a resistant student. Of course, each of us has our own breaking point at which the small and inconsequential become something more. We either have to chose to collapse under the challenge or discover new sources of fortitude and fight on.
Right now, there are many people in my sphere who are facing the largest adversity they have ever seen. I imagine many of them feel like they are standing on the beach, waiting and watching as the tsunami wave rushes in towards them unimpeded. They feel they have nowhere to go; the only option is to stand and face the the impending doom as it rapidly approaches without hope. That is not the case.
Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, I think the message surrounding Easter weekend is perfectly applicable to this particular situation. For Jesus, standing in the garden of Gethsemane, cracking under the weight of the burden he was carrying, there were only two avenues of recourse - beg for the burden to be lifted or find strength to carry on. Knowing there was no real satisfaction to be had in asking for reprieve, he found the strength he needed and pushed forward.
Acceptance of your circumstances is the first step towards making a difference. No one can change something they don’t acknowledge as real. Many times, simply seeing our circumstances for what they are is liberating. In twelve step programs, addicts first have to admit to their addiction. Before they do this, there is little hope of overcoming their issues. Identifying their exact problem is the key to solving it. Could you imagine a hospital where they treated everything with ignorance? Before they can cure anything, the ailments must be identified. The same is true of our own circumstances. Identify the problem, accept it, and move forward towards a solution.
If you can imagine, the next part of Jesus’ story was easy compared to the first. Once he accepted the reality of his situation, acknowledging what it was he must do to accomplish his mission, sacrifice was easy. I don’t mean to say that the prospect of being abandoned, scourged, beaten, and crucified was pleasant, but the knowledge of the potential return on his investment was a tremendous boon. He was able to move forward despite the knowledge of what was to come because he had faith in the end result. While his sacrifice was not easy to withstand physically, it was easy to bear, ultimately knowing what it would mean.
No matter your circumstances, if there is an issue in your life preventing forward momentum, some sort of sacrifice is required. Most of the time, the sacrifice centers around our comfort level, giving up something in order to allow change to occur. Sometimes sacrifice is not our choice, but its necessity remains the same. Change for the better is difficult, but the results should always be present on your mind like the metaphorical carrot to the donkey. Without having faith in the end result, the first step is nearly impossible. That faith is what gives you the strength to carry through to the end, regardless of the tribulations encountered during the journey.
In the Christian faith, the triumph for which Jesus fought came through his defeat of death. His calm approach to his circumstances guaranteed that he would succeed. He faced his fears, faced his detractors, faced the pure physical torment placed in his path, and was rewarded for his tenacity and his faith. Through his acceptance and sacrifice, triumph was achieved.
So too for us will triumph come. Regardless of circumstance, keeping our head up, no matter the weight pressing down upon us, will move us forward to our goals. Nothing can step in your way that can not be overcome, nothing placed in your path that can not be sidestepped, nothing said that can dissuade. Finding the freedom from the past sometimes seems an impossible notion, but know that it is possible with the right mindset. Move forward towards a better life, away from whatever it is that holds you back.
For those teachers reading this today who feel so very alone in your circumstances, know that you are not. If the state budget continues as advertised and the worse case scenario occurs, know that you will have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of supporters. We will all be here to help you up if you have been knocked down. Have faith in the future, no matter how dark it might seem. Find the small sliver of light, regardless of how faint it appears, and focus on it as your goal. Surround yourself in its hope and promise and move towards it. The path might be difficult, but never stray and you will find your way home.
To those of you who fight your own battles, who face uncertainty in their future, who have decision to make that might require acceptance and sacrifice, know that triumph is on the horizon. The path may be difficult, the end result sometimes uncertain, and the bravery to continue fleeting, but rest in the knowledge that your persistence and courage will pay off eventually. Have faith. You deserve it.
I encourage you to celebrate triumphs this weekend, no matter how small they are or how grand they might be. Celebrate past triumphs to remind yourself they are possible. Celebrate others’ triumphs to confirm their reality. Look forward to future triumphs as they offer hope of what is to come. Know that triumphs are possible, and their approach is immanent.