We all want life to be easy -- a cruise along the Riviera, our daily 18 holes of golf, a tan and a drink...
So when life throws little wrinkles in the fabric, we rail against the unfairness. We bristle with frustration. "Why me?"
If you think life is supposed to run smoothly and easily, I can promise you a life of frustration. Your daily existence will never conform to your expectations, no matter what you do, no matter how much money you have.
Because life isn't meant to be like that. This is a world of challenge, since only through challenge do we really grow.
When we get married and raise a family, we have idealized images of what that family should be -- running the gamut from Leave It to Beaver to The Simpson's. Yet our family will never look like our imagination. It will never live up to those expectations. Because our lives our not fiction; it's composed of real people. This is a real world, with real limitations. If you expect family life to be all smooth sailing, you are in for a shock.
I once counseled a young man who expected his five (very) young children to sit in complete silence at the dinner table. He was tired and he needed his downtime. Needless to say the constant confounding of his expectations was a serious source of strife in their home.
Family life is messy -- marriage and child-raising can't be compartmentalized and stored in neat color-coded containers. We have to learn to roll with the punches.
As A. Roger Merrill and his wife Rebecca write in Life Matters, "One of the great benefits of family life is the incomparable interdependence and strength of character that come as a result of working through challenges together."
Not only shouldn't we be daunted by the mess, we should welcome it. "In fact, our ability to see the 'ideal' as strength to handle the challenge -- rather than the absence of challenge -- is what gives birth to the thoughts and actions that create...enduring family strength..."
It is only through the crucible of these difficulties that we become fully human and fully realized.
Frequently when our children are young (actually when they're older), we dream of the time when they're all out of the house. We fantasize about the peace and quiet. But I've heard (not having yet experienced it!) that once that actually occurs, you miss the noise. The mess. The chaos. The life.
No matter the external appearance, no one has a life free of challenges. Lacking the designer logo, our struggles are still custom-made for us. And it is only through them that our potential can be actualized.
Our patriarch Abraham had ten tests, each to bring out strengths hidden within. Although possibly overwhelmed, he didn't say, "I've had enough, I've grown enough. Whaddya say we stop at nine?" He wasn't looking for easy.
We are in danger of being seduced by a world where comfort is the goal. We are in danger of sacrificing our mission to be a light unto the nations. Because we think it should be easy, we risk the peril of never achieving true freedom. Abraham gave us the strength and the tools, and the recognition that it's good for us.
May the Almighty give us the strength to successfully maneuver through our challenges, and to reap the benefits of leaping in a world free from illusion.