I really like to learn. I get annoyingly excited when registration comes around-the first day of classes, don’t even get me started. I spend too much time watching mini-docs learning about things I have no business knowing and I have a book sitting on my desk that’s completely in Arabic (I thought I’d learn that one day too). It’s probably a downfall, to know a little bit about everything and not too much about anything, but I can’t help but move from How It’s Made to a Piper commentary on 1 Kings to author interviews in the 50’s about how to use art to communicate injustice-all within an afternoon’s time. I really like to learn. But this week it was suggested to me, that we can learn from our struggle. And to that I said, “no thanks”. That didn’t sound fun or exciting to me at all, and the idea of trying to learn when you’re just trying to survive, well I didn’t like it.
I’ve been sitting on this porch swing for a while now, tossing my thoughts around, and I’ve landed on trying. Why? Because we all do it. We all struggle. And we actually do want to learn. Or at least we want to know. We want to know things like: is it worth it? Is there a point to all this? Is there something in the end of the struggle that will outweigh the pain of right now?
We want to know. So let’s try together.
There’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that struggling means you’re alive.
Your jealousy, it tells you whose affections you value.
Your anger, it tells you what you wish you could protect.
Your shame, it tells you where you insecurities lie.
Your love aches, they tell you who you want on your team.
Your tears, they tell you that you had someone in your life worth loving-and you did that as long as you could.
Your frustrations remind you of your own hope for something better for yourself.
Your disappointment, it shows you believed in yourself (or someone else), that you planned on making it-and that part of you still believes you can.
Your struggle, though painful, is simply a jump on the EKG. It shows you’re still here. You’re still fighting. Is shows you know what beautiful looks like, and the beauty might be broken now, but I think we can all agree that doesn’t mean we would’ve wished it away from the beginning.
I think we’ve confused “struggling” for an event that’s happening to us rather than a verb we ourselves are executing. Life is hard all by itself-but if you’re truly struggling then you’re actively trudging, even if it’s slow-moving and messy.
I like to rock climb, except I don’t do it very often which means most of the time I spend doing it I spend struggling. Every few weeks me and a friend will drive to a climbing gym, chalk up, and test out the hours we’d put in the weight room the week before. After a few hours of fingers gripping at places too small to actually support my body, I’ll get what some call “Elvis legs”. This is where the fatigue and lack of surface area for balance combine for an uncontrollable knee shake that looks like you’re trying to do Elvis on the wall. Your calves start vibrating because they are struggling to find a foundation that isn’t there. Despite the struggle, you reach and stretch your body to it’s full length and then, if that’s not enough, you jump. You jump and you hope your pinkeye toe had enough power to send you far enough to grab onto the hold you’re reaching for.
When you’re climbing and you jump, sometimes you make it, and when you do it’s beautiful. But sometimes you miss, and you hit the mat and your calves don’t thank you. But that’s struggling. That’s struggling up, and when you struggle up it’s a sure sign you sure as heck believe there’s something better farther up the wall, something that makes the Elvis legs worth it in the end.
So here we are. Can we really learn from our struggle? I’m thinking if we ditch the struggle bus like a 16-year-old with a new-to-you whip, and get on our way to struggle school we might actually learn a thing or two. Let’s stop letting our struggles drive us around like the creepy old bus driver we knew in elementary school and start digging in why it hurts. Let’s get off the bus, and take inventory of our hearts so we can preserve and protect them better tomorrow. Let’s learn so we can protect and preserve the hearts of others too. Let’s let the pain teach, the struggle reveal and let’s remember that being alive is worth it.
It’s worth it.
Keep climbing babe, you got this.
P.S. Thanks to Cam for the inspiration for this post.
Bonus life nugget: date boys who are great, who think you’re great, and who want the world to see that too.