(This is an excerpt from the Fall issue of "Figs In Season "... You can read the full article by clicking on http://figtreeenterprises.com/redefining-ourselves/ )
Life has many lessons to impart to us daily. The great challenge for us as Life’s students is in identifying what nugget to extract from each experience and applying it appropriately in our lives. We are all prone to getting bogged down in the potential quick-sand of life’s sometimes treacherous path. We all stumble along the way. That is because our path does not always present itself as a classroom, and so wisdom dictates that we hone our abilities of discernment through developing habits of meaningful reflection. Without these habits we may become weighed down with guilt and anger and the consequent frustrations of an existence woefully lacking a dynamic perspective. And so, to our great angst, we become what we have done…and what has been done to us.
In the face of the challenge to live in a prescribed mold, let us call to mind the great examples of individuals whose stories inspire us because they refused to. These individuals demonstrate to us the truth that the vilest sinner can become a saint. The persecutor can become an advocate for those he once victimized. The addict can rise above the afflictions of addiction and be a witness to what it can mean to live an empowered life. We have seen the abused overcome the dehumanizing stigma of being a victim and become examples of what taking charge of one’s destiny can produce in one’s world. We have seen the slave become a liberator. These are a few examples of what is possible when we refuse to be defined by the gross violations of our experience.
Saint Augustine who went on to become one of the most important theologians of the early church, had his own challenges to overcome before he could attain to the levels of philosophical prominence he achieved. Exhausted by his own moral, spiritual, and intellectual struggles, he eventually cried out: “And Thou, O Lord, how long? How long? Is it to be tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour put an end to shame?”
Oprah Winfrey, the most wealthy woman of color in the world, rose above the life-inhibiting experiences she has so courageously shared with us to establishing, among other things, a school for young black girls in South Africa that seeks to expand their horizons. Her life and example serves as an inspiration to all of us. She continues to grow, and she constantly reminds us that there are new heights to be achieved no matter how wonderful our achievements. In her regularly featured signature article “What I Know for Sure“, which she writes for O The Magazine, she recently noted the following:
“We have to make ourselves over daily, consistently, in order to keep moving forward. We are not meant to stagnate. If change is the one thing you can be sure of, the goal is to figure out how you can use that certainty to your advantage, to modify, transfigure, and transform your day to day being.”
Jesus of Nazareth asked his Heavenly Father to forgive his persecutors their moral/spiritual ignorance. His life remains an eternal symbol of grace with which we are all acquainted. We are constantly drawn to his example of empowered living, as he showed us how to resurrect our lives from the grips of oppression and crucifixion.
Nelson Mandela emerged from 28 years of imprisonment at the hands of the servants of Apartheid in South Africa to call for “truth and reconciliation” in a country torn asunder by a desperately hateful ideology.
These giants of moral and philosophical achievement will live forever through the lives they continue to lift up by their great examples.