The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

I had a bit of a disappointment today.  I knew it was coming, but it was still difficult to have it actually come to pass. At the same time, however, a couple of wonderful things were in the works: a call from a reporter, a possible trip with a friend, and a return home after a long weekend.

Doesn’t it always seem that good and bad go hand in hand if we are open to the tension of holding both.  There have certainly been times in my life when all I experienced was the bad – or the good. But I can look back with 20/20 vision and see how things I had considered all good had seeds of difficulty planted in them, and horrible things, like my father’s death had elements of reconciliation and healing that I never expected.

I have been on a spiritual journey of acceptance over the past several weeks. It started with reading The Book of Joy, by the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams.  In one chapter, the Dalai Lama was expressing his amazement that Bishop Tutu could find hope and joy even in the midst of apartheid, while Bishop Tutu expressed the same amazement as the Dalai Lama had struggled through an exile that changed his life, his people’s life, and the world.  They both claimed the power of acceptance. It is not a wishy-washy word of resignation: what will be will always be. Instead it is the first step in understanding what is, so that there is room to see what can be.

I then received the prayer word “accept” on the Christian Sunday of Epiphany, where we celebrate God’s light of revelation. My son said I received the word because I accept every opportunity and meeting that comes along – that he thinks of me that way (not necessarily positively) is itself a revelation. But I wonder if it is not a call to even more acceptance – not of things to do, but of the world around me. If I can recognize the reality of the good and the bad all mixed together in my experiences, rather than focusing on how I think it “should” be, I might lead a different kind of life. I might find more peace – and both Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama think I might find more joy, as well.

My hope is that this kind of radical acceptance will feed my creative spirit. I once grumbled all the way to the car and down the road to school with my then-four-year-old about the grey colorless day. “But grey’s a color too,” he said, confused. That moment lifted my mood and is a favorite story of mine. He’s 12 now, however, and with more art training assures me that I was right all along. “Grey is a shade, not a color,” he says wisely and in a voice that’s far too deep to be my son’s.

I can accept the reality of the shade versus color argument from an art perspective, but my 64-count crayon box still has grey as a color, and that still brightens my day. The good and the bad all mixed up together – beautiful in it’s own way.

How have you dealt with recent disappointments in your life? Can you see traces of good in your challenges and not-so-good in your best moments? Is looking at life this way helpful to you now? Have you thought about having a prayer word for a season or a year?  I receive my prayer word in a church service.  My friend prays for her prayer word each January. If you don’t have one, how might you “get” one? Are you good at accepting things as they are? How does the word “accept” make you feel.  Does it feel like a strong or a weak word to you?

In different stages of our spiritual journeys, we need different ways of seeing the world. Radical acceptance is something that is important for me now, but you may need something very different.  Having a spiritual director can help you on your unique spiritual path.  Explore Openings: Let the Spirit In to find out more about spiritual direction.

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