The secret of life.

It is January for sure.  Snowed 3″ last night and 6″ on the way tomorrow.  Life really slows down and I have to deal with an empty schedule compared to the pace required in the fourth quarter of each year.  Then it happens!  A friend gets fired, another friend looses a child, a friend looses a parent and a friend is fighting death from cancer.  These are not people I know about…..these are some of my closest friends.  How do I process heartache?  How do they process heartache?  Life gets very tough. 

I have found peace and in two strange places.  One from the words of James the brother of Jesus and the other from James….James Taylor.  Both are very unlikely partners and over 2,000 years separate them.  Please allow me to explain how each has given me comfort and understanding in the midst of deep sorrow.

I was in a very hard place with one of my daughters this year.  This comes and goes but is almost always present in her life which affects my life.  I was looking for help when I decided to look in the scriptures for a good word.  For some reason I landed in James 1. Mainly because he is the brother of Jesus.   As I read the verses below I did not like what I was reading and did not understand why someone would say something like this: 

1:2-8 – When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence. And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God – who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty – and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him. But he must ask in sincere faith without secret doubts as to whether he really wants God’s help or not. The man who trusts God, but with inward reservations, is like a wave of the sea, carried forward by the wind one moment and driven back the next. That sort of man cannot hope to receive anything from God, and the life of a man of divided loyalty will reveal instability at every turn.

At first glance I thought “What a load of crap”.  These trials could not be my friends.  Losing a job, death, sickness and divorce could not be our friends.  Against my nature, I kept reading.  There is a process of understanding which involves asking God to give us understanding.  I do not have to understand.  I do have to agree to let the process continue and ask God to give me understanding which he promised to freely give.   The bold letters are where I found peace.

Secondly, the other James (James Taylor) has had a profound impact in my understanding the importance of understanding the passage of time.  I have four children.  My youngest is 17 and my oldest is 27.  My days of influence and engagement are becoming less and less.  Earlier in their lives it was very tough with the stress of raising four.  Little sleep and stress was the menu for the day.  I did not want to long for the days when the pressure would be gone but it was very tempting to long for days of less pressure.  James Taylor’s music has always been a “Happy Place” for me and takes me back to my college care free days.  I used his music many times to escape to a happy place free of worries.  Then it happened.  I did not usually listen to the words but I did this day.  Here is what he sang. 

“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.  The secret of love is in opening up your heart.” James Taylor

How true could this be?  This is the real secret.

I have found great comfort and hope in understanding “the passage of time” and “considering my trials and temptations as my friends”.  As a rule, my life is a mixed up mess.  When I remind myself of these two truths, I know I move closer to “The Narrow Passage” where life is found.