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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Intentional Living


Years ago, I heard Tony Campolo give a challenging sermon, about whether in life we are like the eight ball on the pool table, that just gets bounced around by whatever happens to bump into us, or whether we are like the cue ball, which is the one that sets a direction and makes things happen.  I really like the image, and have considered it a lot in life.  I think it applies for those who have experienced divorce as well, and in ways people may not realize.

Of course, in the divorce process itself, one can simply let everything happen as the opposing attorney brings, make no stands for one’s own rights and just end up wherever it leads.  Sometimes that happens to us even if we DO try to stand up for our own rights, because courts and attorneys operate on a different set of definitions of right, wrong and justice that most of us do.  

What about after all the court proceedings end? do you live like the eight ball or like the cue ball?  I suspect in many cases, it is more like the eight ball than we might want to admit.

Let me explain.

Many of those who have gone through divorce re-enter the world of dating.  Often, when they do so, they create a list of things they are seeking and things they want to avoid in a spouse.  A careful examination of such a list may reveal that instead of actually making choices about what kind of a relationship the individual truly desires, the list reveals the writer is merely reacting to the bad relationship they have left.  No more angry men!  No more nagging women!  No husband who can’t be faithful!  No wife I can’t trust!  Reacting to the past, instead of choosing for a future. 

Or sometimes it manifests itself in the way the one handles the children from the marriage.  Allowing things simply because the ex denied them for so long, or making decisions about how to handle time with the kids, in ways that intentionally brings hurt to the ex.  Or choosing to parent differently just because I don’t have to be like I was before in that marriage.  All eight ball reactions, not cue ball intentions.

Even apart from these things, and individual may restructure a future life and still be bound in reactions rather than choices.  Certain tones of voices in others or specific experiences or locations can set off feelings totally unrelated to the current event, creating a reaction based on events long, long ago.  A person who has been beaten down may decide to go out and PROVE “I can make it on my own,” again just as a counter to the messages drummed into their heads for years, rather than choosing to pursue a path because it is the path toward a longed for future goal.  

Even in the realm of one’s emotions, one can be bound up reacting to the past instead of moving forward whole into the future.  Hurts from an abusive marriage, anger over a nasty divorce process, bitterness over the betrayal of an affair all have the power to lodge in our hearts and shape our personalities if we let them.  And if we let them, then once again, we have given control over who we have become to an individual who is no longer central to our lives, and denied ourselves the opportunity to become the person God would desire to shape us into now.  Eight ball emotions, rather than cue ball healing and hope.

This applies, of course, not only to divorce, but to lots of life experiences, whether growing up in an alcoholic home, suffering abuse as a child, failures in school, almost anything can take the place of our ability to make healthy choices if we choose to let them dominate our thoughts and emotions.  Letting go of the past and refusing to give the power of our future to those who have hurt us in it is a tough task to undertake, but it is the most freeing and healthy way to move forward as we allow Christ to guide us into the perfect design he has for our lives.  

So again, what controls your life?  Are you really living as a cue ball?  Or are you simply bouncing around like an eight ball, reacting to things that should no longer have power over your life?  It’s an important question to ask.

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