My husband and I drove to Chicago several weeks ago. I really don’t like driving long distances, but it beats the alternative — flying. Most of the drive was smooth, relaxing, and carefree. I read while my husband drove, and he worked on his laptop when I drove. We averaged about eighty miles per hour in sunny or at least fair weather on a long, clear, wide, and mostly well-maintained stretch of highway. We talked and ate and were generally cheerful most of the trip. It was a twelve hour drive, but we stopped one night in each direction to make for a more relaxing and enjoyable drive.
One day on the ride home, the GPS told us to get off at an exit that did not coincide with the signs overhead which pointed east towards Pennsylvania where we live. We hesitated for a second (couldn’t pause too long at that rate of speed), and then my husband made the decision to remain on the highway and follow the signs overhead instead of the voice on the GPS. Within one minute our speed slowed to a halt, and we were stuck in a single lane, in bumper-to-bumper traffic spanning as far as the eye could see.
I’m not one to just sit there and acknowledge my powerlessness in a situation like that. Immediately my brain started scanning the possibilities. Were we too far from the exit that the GPS told us to take? Yep. Could we drive along the shoulder to the next exit? Nope. There was physically no way out, so I started subconsciously seeking emotional reprieve. Blame was the obvious first tool — it was all my husband’s fault. Didn’t I tell him to listen to the GPS? Anger came next. Why are they doing construction in the middle of the day when people are traveling? Why can’t they do this stuff at night? Fear followed. What if I have to go to the bathroom? What would I do if I was even five years older in this situation? The bladder doesn’t cooperate the way it used to you know. Meanwhile, as my thoughts darted from idea to idea, my frustration and temper increased. There seemed to be no way out — neither of the traffic nor my escalating emotional chaos.
As you probably have figured out, acceptance does not come easily to me. It feels like defeat, and I’m a fighter. But acceptance is far from defeat. It’s living in reality. Acceptance is defined as “the act of taking or receiving something.” In the example of my traffic dilemma, I had to simply sit back and take and receive the moment as uncomfortable as it was. God knows I tried everything else first (my typical pattern), but it wasn’t until I accepted the reality of the situation and allowed it to simply be and to be present in it that I could come to a place of peace and be freed from the inner turmoil. It’s so simple — taking and receiving — yet so difficult.
When the twists and turns of life go in the directions that I think they should, I’m all about acceptance. When things do not go the way I think they should, I enter into a state of resistance and refusal in the same way that I did in the traffic jam. I start to blame God for all the unpleasant and uncomfortable things that are happening either to me or around me. I become angry. I seek emotional reprieve. I live in a state of fear.
Life is a gift that was given to me. To accept that gift fully, I need to receive all that it has to offer — the joy, the sorrow, the fear, the good, and the bad. To be truly in acceptance, I must be willing to experience the pain that comes just as I am willing to accept the joy. I must accept the traffic jams along with the wide open highways. It’s a posture of openness to receive the gift that was given without putting conditions on my willingness to receive. The actions that we take to free ourselves from reality do not free us from the pain. They merely mask it temporarily, and they hinder our growth and draw us in the opposite direction of the One who gave us the gift. Don’t run. Draw nearer. Be open to receive all of it.
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