Life is a complex mixture of experiences, emotions, happenings, joys, loss, surprises, the mundane, difficulties, mountains and valleys. In the world I find myself a part of, it is my responsibility to decide how I will respond to what life brings my way. I’m learning the value of saying “yes” to whatever comes instead of resisting or fighting against those things which I find uncomfortable or cause me to fear. There is great power in looking at each new situation with fresh eyes and embracing it as an opportunity for personal growth rather than allowing it to be a source of irritation or anxiety. This is bringing a newfound sense of freedom into my life and it is beautiful! My life is much richer and I wouldn’t exchange any of it for what I now know and experience.
As Susan Jeffers says, “…those who are living rich lives wouldn’t change them for a moment. They delight in the opportunity to taste all that life has to offer – the good and the bad.”[i] She relates the example of Viktor Frankl who endured life in a concentration camp and how he exercised his power to choose what attitude he would adopt toward his circumstances. He knew this was the secret to bring deeper meaning into his life.
I immediately thought of one of my favorite movies, “Life is Beautiful”. Winner of many awards, including 3 Academy Awards, this Italian film is an amazing portrayal of love, hope, and the fight to survive amidst the Holocaust of WWII. Guido, a charming, imaginative and witty man, wins the heart of a beautiful young woman, Dora, with his many antics and quick-thinking sense of humor. These same qualities enable him to save the lives of his wife and small son during their time in a German concentration camp. Against the backdrop of mean-spirited armed guards, cramped barracks, the disparity between captors and captives, long lines of despairing deportees, and the reality of the gas chambers, one man succeeds in creating a fantasy that secures his son’s survival. Although on opposite sides of the camp from his wife, he finds creative ways of assuring her that he and his son are still alive.
One of the most poignant scenes that illustrate his remarkable positivity opens as he and his son, Joshua, line up to board the cattle train. Knowing in his mind what is about to happen he begins creating a different reality for his son. His jovial and animated demeanor is priceless.
“What time is it? We’re leaving right on time. What organization! You’ve never taken a train, huh?”
“No, is it nice?”
“It’s really nice! It’s all wooden inside. Everybody stands up. There’s not one seat.”
“There aren’t any seats?”
“What? Seats on a train? It’s obvious you’ve never been on one! No, everybody stands really close together. Do you see this line? I got the last tickets just in time! Hurry up, Uncle Eliseo. I don’t want them to say, ‘Too late. It’s full. Go back home.’ Wait up! We’ve got a reservation! Leave some room for us!”
Later, he sets up the fantasy that ultimately saves his son:
“It’s the game where we’re all players. It’s all organized…They give us our schedule. It’s hard, you know. It’s not easy. If somebody makes a mistake they get sent right home. That means you have to be very careful. But, if you win, you get first prize!”
“What’s the prize?”
“It’s a tank!”
“I already have one.”
“This one’s a real tank! Brand new!”[ii]
The message of this film transcends the immediate setting, horrific as it was, to our everyday lives. Wherever we find ourselves, there is a choice. I can choose to let my situation keep me in a state of fear, sadness, irritation, despair, confusion, or loneliness. Conversely, I can choose to love my life for what it is. I can learn, grow, try new things, face my fears head-on, consciously view things from a different perspective, and when bad things happen – I know from past experience that I will get through it and I will move forward.
As a believer and follower of Christ, I am assured that nothing comes into my life but what has been lovingly sifted through the fingers of my Heavenly Father. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 7:14, “When things are going well for you, be glad, and when trouble comes, just remember: God sends both happiness and trouble; you never know what is going to happen next.” (GNT)
God wants us to not only live life, but live it to the full! (John 10:10)
Until next time,