Friday, February 2, 2018

In the Spin Cycle

As Norm said on one episode of the television show Cheers, “We live in a dog eat dog world and sometimes it seems like we have milk bone underwear on.” It can be tough, I know.

An old story tells of a little boy who went into a grocery store and asked for extra strength laundry detergent. As the clerk was finding it, he asked the boy what he wanted to use it for. He said he wanted to give his pet rat a bath.

The clerk replied, “Well, I think that this detergent is a bit strong for a rat. I’m not sure that I would use it.”

The child said that he believed it would be all right and the grocer added, “Just be careful. This is awfully strong detergent.”

About a week later, the boy came back. When asked by the grocer how his rat was, he said, “Well, he just sort of walks around in a daze.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” sympathized the clerk. “But I did tell you that the detergent was probably too strong.”

“Oh, I really don’t think it was the detergent,” the boy replied. “I believe it was the spin cycle that did it.”

Do you ever feel as if you have been through the spin cycle? Maybe even hung out to dry? Living through pain and suffering is like going through the spin cycle. Often our pain is physical, the result of illness or injury. But more often we suffer from emotional pain like loss, fear, worry, rejection, loneliness, guilt or depression. In either case, sometimes we feel as if we have been through the spin cycle.

We sometimes long for a world with no pain, no problems, no obstacles, no disappointments, no hurts, no handicaps, no troubles. We wish our bodies might always run like fine-tuned machines – no permanent breakdowns, no serious illness – purring along forever, or at least until they quickly and painlessly cease to function altogether (and, of course, at the time of our choosing). We might crave a world where loss is unknown, loneliness unheard of and all things unpleasant somehow banished.

But the truth is, we live in a world with pain. And we all experience our share. We can run, but we can’t hide from suffering. It will always find us. And should we even try to run from it? For as much as we hate going through tough times - the spins cycles of life - even hardships help us to grow. It’s amazing, but our most difficult times can serve this valuable purpose.

Helen Keller, without sight or hearing, suffered her share of pain. But after many years of anger and hostility toward her “solitary confinement,” she was eventually able to say, “I thank God for my handicaps. For through them, I have found myself, my work and my God.”

I don’t know if you can give thanks for your sufferings, but can you accept them as the indispensable teachers they are? Can you embrace trouble as a necessary (if unwelcome) part of life? The spin cycles we inevitably go through are not the problem; getting stuck in them is the problem. Find your way through and you just may come out stronger than ever.

-- Steve Goodier

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