The World Can’t Take Away Anything the World Did Not Give© 2011, Vicki Hinze WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
At certain times of the year, we think more about life in general and our lives specifically than at other times. We remember Christmases past, we remember many of our “firsts,” we remember those we love dearly who are no longer with us.
We recall traditions and funny events, we recall specific situations or circumstances, and we recall the glory days of the way things once were but are no more.
This year, many of us are in a mess. We’ve lost our jobs, our homes, the lives and lifestyles we worked hard to build. We also face an uncertain future. For many, this is an era of times that try men’s souls—and women’s and children’s souls, too.
But we know from experience that circumstances change, eras come and go, and our present will soon become part of our past. Our future is yet to be determined, and yet when we’re mired in muck, we have a hard time remembering that we are the masters of that destiny.
We get caught up in the ways of the world, following the hierarchy of needs, and forget that the planning and preparing we do today go a long way toward manifesting the future we have tomorrow. We forget that while attitude won’t fill an empty belly or put shelter over a head, it will create a circumstance where we can fill our bellies and shelter our heads. Attitude matters.
When we’re soaring and things are going well, we don’t often stop to think about our basic needs. But when those basic needs are threatened or taken or lost, we think about little else.
It is in the troubled times that we have the greatest opportunities. We can hit the reset button without fear of losing much—it’s already gone. We can dare to take risks, to follow a dream, to consider ourselves positioned for a grand adventure. We can start fresh. Maybe the life we created was comfortable but unfulfilling. Maybe we felt more like we were stuck on a treadmill or in a mouse’s maze but thought we had too much to lose to suffer the discomforts of starting over fresh in something that to us represents the brass ring.
There is no one brass ring. Ten people have ten brass rings. It’s unique and individual to each of us, just as our own definition of success is unique to us. That is a blessing because it takes us all, it takes all our brass rings to create the whole we all enjoy.
When the world takes things away, remember that what it takes is limited. The world can’t take what it doesn’t give. It can’t take what is yours by right, endowed on you by your Creator.
The ways of the world are not God’s ways. We’re told it, reminded of it, and if we imprint it on our hearts, we’ll have the tools we need to come out of crisis. When bad things happen, we blame fate, blame others, blame entities. But the truth is, that while others and entities might have contributed to our challenges, we embraced them.
We bought the home that stretched our budget, maxed out the credit card on things we couldn’t afford, elected to stay laid off for the maximum time we drew unemployment benefits. Maybe we weren’t totally aware of the path to destruction we were walking, but we did choose to walk it. We didn’t realize that by drawing those benefits so long we’d render ourselves unmarketable and need new skills. That the interest on that credit card would soar and grow to a seemingly bottomless pit.
Perhaps others weren’t as forthright as they could have been, but we were active participants and since this is our life, we are ultimately responsible for it. It isn’t fate or others or entities who suffer the consequences. It is us. And therefore, we learn that in all endeavors, before we participate, we should ask ourselves if things go well or wrong, who suffers the greatest consequences.
If we’re in a tough spot, and so many of us are, we realize that simple truth now, and we’re struggling to find a way to a better future. But before we focus on that future, we should focus on our present. On the things that remain when the world has taken all it can take from us.
What do we have left?
We have Life. Where there is life, there is hope. That didn’t get to be a common saying for the sake of itself but because it is true. Life carries hope because so long life exists, change is possible. We can change. We can start over, start fresh, begin again.
We have Faith. God rejoices with us when we make wise choices, and weeps with and carries us when we make bad choices. He never abandons us, even if we have ignored Him for years—or forever. He eagerly awaits us turning to Him and longs for us to return to Him. When we walk with God, we might falter, but He does not. He guides our path and is with us even when we deny Him. He remains. In good or bad times, or times when we’re so mired and lost we don’t even know what to ask for or what we need to find our way. God knows. Faith sustains us and fosters whatever we need to find our way.
We have Knowledge. Of wrongs we’ve committed, errors we’ve made, flaws in us and in others that we gave authority in our lives. And because we have knowledge, we have the chance for fresh starts—not just today, but every day. Any minute of any day we can choose to start over. Every minute, every day. We have the opportunity and the wisdom to begin again.
We have Humility. We know now we can break because we have broken. But we also know that we can survive breaking and we can heal. God specializes in healing the broken and in making crooked places straight, and He loves nothing more than us. We look back through our lives and say that He won’t bother; we’ve broken ourselves so many times before, but wisdom and knowledge dispute that. He remains forever. We can break and break and break—no matter how many times we break—He is always with us and because there is no greater love than His love for us, He is the way, the truth and the light. We can trust Him in all things, and He will always be there for us. No step we take or move we make is made without Him. Sometimes we walk in His grace, sometimes we walk in our free will choices, but He is there.
We have gratitude. Gratitude for all that remains. Gratitude for dignity, self-respect, honor, courage, bravery. Gratitude for the ability to endure and suffer and grow wiser and stronger. Gratitude for being broken, because in having done so, we know we have the ability to patch ourselves together, heal, pick ourselves up and begin again—this time, wiser and stronger and more armed with all the things we now know remain and can’t be taken away unless we choose to give them away. Gratitude for experience.
The world can’t take any of these things or many others, nor can it take our thoughts and dreams and our willingness to humble ourselves before God and men. The world can’t take any of these things because it doesn’t own them. Neither did the world bestow them on us.
These things are divine gifts, as are our special abilities and skills. Our purpose. And with divine gifts, even when we are in turmoil, we also know contentment and peace. We know trust.
If in exercising our free will, we trust God, then He directs our steps on a new path. A better path. On that leads to a life better than the one that shattered and left us broken. An everlasting life. Eternal life.
And we take that path knowing we are never alone.
That, dear friends, is grace. Grace in action. And grace is the most sacred of all the gifts bestowed on us by the Divine that the world can’t touch much less take away because the world didn’t give it. It is a gift of the heart from a loving Father and it is ours forever.