I am sick.
I am plagued by a disease which alters the way I view the world—the disease of perception.
God has provided me countless opportunities to feel better, to become whole, to heal. And yet the disease still rears its ugly head from time to time.
One of the symptoms of my disease is self-pity. I’m not talking about going through five minutes of feeling sorry for yourself because the restaurant screws up your order, or even the healthy sort of grieving you do when feeling sorry for yourself after a legitimate loss of a dream, a person, an animal, or an opportunity.
Since I have the disease of perception, when I get into self-pity, I get INTO self-pity. I have vivid memories of wallowing on my ex-boyfriend’s deck in a quilt and bawling my eyes out because he admitted that he didn’t have the same overwhelming feelings for me that I had for him. A little over the top, eh? I remember writing sad poetry for hours while listening to “My Friends” on repeat by Red Hot Chili Peppers. I recall lying on my green couch during a tumultuous time in my first marriage, with a small knife and a bottle of painkillers hidden beneath the pillow, planning a route to end my own inner turmoil.
Do you get the picture? I didn’t just FEEL self-pity. I LIVED it.
Behaving this way today isn’t an option for me, but at the time, it was the only way I knew to soothe my sick soul. I did the best I could at the time with what I had.
Since I began working to take actions against my feelings, my perception has gradually changed. Most days, I don’t feel sorry for myself, reflect on my worst moments in life, or relive sad memories like a sick Siren. When I do slip into self-pity, the fastest way out is to get into gratitude. One way I do this is by recalling miracles.
I’ve heard that a miracle is simply a change in perception.
This morning during reading and reflection time with God, self-pity crept in. I found myself feeling guilty about poor choices I’d made, remembering losses I’ve endured, and missing people who are no longer in touch.
The difference between how I cope with moments like this now versus a decade ago is my response to self-pity. I’m more likely to recognize it when it hits, and I quickly do something different.
I began reflecting on instances in my past when I’ve experienced a change in perception.
There was a time when I was filing bankruptcy while working two jobs. I was actually earning more than I’d ever earned in my life, but the debt I’d accrued from living above my means for so long smothered me. I was driving a flashy red car with three year-old tires. When I had my oil changed, the technician asked me to sign a document admitting that he’d advised me to change the tires because he didn’t want to be held accountable if I wrecked due to their poor condition. I signed the document because I just didn’t have the funds to replace the tires, so I kept driving to and from work (a 45-minute commute each way), squealing and sliding all the way.
My spiritual mentor encouraged me to pray and ask God to provide new tires. I did, but my prayers were flimsy.
One July afternoon, the owner of my company asked to borrow my car. I felt immediately ashamed because I knew my tires were about to shrivel or explode. I warned him about the tires, but I handed over the keys. His car was in the shop for the day, and he needed to run errands.
A few hours later, he handed me my keys and went upstairs to his office. A coworker asked if I’d seen my car. I felt a moment of panic, wondering if the owner had a fender bender and failed to tell me about it. I walked out to the parking lot and found my little red car atop four brand new tires, the best tires available for that make and model.
I rushed back inside, up the stairs, and thanked the owner profusely while attempting to avoid wearing emotions on my face.
“There’s no way you could know this, but you have just been part of a miracle for me. Thank you.”
I’m not sure what he thought of my words, but his facial expression looked a little puzzled (and amused).
“Consider it a bonus. You’ve been working really hard.”
But I considered it a miracle, and I still do. God has repeatedly used people in my life (some of whom never know they’re being used) to reveal truth to me and to change my perception. And a miracle is just a change in perception.
Once in high school, while driving around late at night with a boy I loved, we diverted our course and decided to turn off the truck for an hour or so while talking, musing, and kissing—just two teenagers innocently loving each other in hands-free fashion. When my curfew neared, he turned the key to start the truck. Crickets. We both panicked.
But he stopped panicking, took my hands, and said, “Let’s pray about it.”
So we did. He tried to start it again. Still nothing.
We prayed again, and he said, “If it doesn’t start this time, I’ll have to find help.” It was cold and rainy, and walking to the nearest house didn’t sound enjoyable to me. We prayed again.
When he turned the key, it started. Magic. We ecstatically kissed.
This morning I remembered this moment. To me, it felt victorious. It felt genuine. And it felt beautiful to see someone I loved demonstrating faith in a crisis, stronger faith than I possessed. It changed my perception.
Remembering miracles—and expressing gratitude for them–IS a miracle for me; it changes my perception. When I see reality, I open my eyes anew, see my darling little girl wrapped up in a blanket watching Reading Rainbow, and hug my husband while we drink early morning coffee.
Embracing reality is the greatest miracle I’ve lived.