“The chance you had is the life you got. . . . You mustn’t want to be somebody else.” So writes novelist Wendell Berry in his bestseller Hannah Coulter. Some time ago an acquaintance said he was tired of living “beside himself” and was longing to live “within himself.” He spoke for a while about the pain that led him to live avoiding his own life in an effort to manage what was an unbearable childhood with an abusive mother. His chronic irritability, withdrawal, and outbursts of anger frustrated his wife and left his teenage children avoiding him at every turn. He had had enough. It was time to live the life he has.
How easy to live from “what if’s” or “only if’s.” How frequently lazy fantasies leave the soul meandering over the old terrain of memories rehashing decisions of ten, twenty, thirty or even forty years earlier; and all these mental machinations leading nowhere but away from life here and now. How much easier, in one sense, to simply blame others, or to live denying what is real and true about our life today.
Richard Rohr writes, “The most courageous thing we will ever do is to bear humbly the mystery of our own reality.” Much of our life is a mystery, even when that reality issues from our choices. We rarely, if ever, grasp entirely the full implications of our decisions. At some point we must decide to embrace the life we have. by God’s grace, we must lay hold of what is ours, of who we are. We must embrace our joy and bear our pain, accept our limits and see our possibilities, shoulder the consequences of our choices, and trust that in all the ordinary of life God is present and at work.
God holds in love all that we are. All of what we are God redeems by mercy. The Lord leaves nothing untouched. Nothing is beyond His reach. The Lord will never forsake us and because God’s loving embrace holds all we are, we are free to relinquish escapist strategies and embrace the life we have, every last bit of it. Maturity begins here.
It is the only life you got!