Driving in my car the other day, I had the urge to take a trip down memory lane and popped in some Garth Brooks to listen to.  Eventually his hit song ‘The Dance’ came on.  Just in case you’ve never heard it……

This is obviously a song about a relationship that was seemingly going great and then something happened that ended it.  The writer of the song ponders what would have been if he had never been in this relationship, but then comes back around with this powerful thought.

‘My life is better left to chance. I could’ve missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.’

Life as we experience it is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, highs and lows, etc. We obviously hope that the good moments outweigh the bad.  However, I have come to believe that it’s how we respond to and learn from the bad moments, that shapes who we are as people. There are those who never recover from the bad moments and live their lives in solitude simply because they decide that is the safest way to avoid the pain of a bad moment.  On the flip side, there are those who, when knocked down, pick themselves up and keep moving forward.

I know it sounds like I’m over-simplifying all of this and not taking into account the many outside factors that influence how we respond to pain.  Please understand that I am in no way attempting to shame anyone who struggles with getting back up when knocked down by life.  The reality is that in recent years, I’ve taken my share of hits that at different points in time I wasn’t sure that I’d come back from.

Here’s what I’ve discovered through all of those moments. First of all, they hurt.  Whether its the pain of watching a loved one fight for their life during an illness, the uncertainty of what’s going to happen after losing a job, or the heartbreak of betrayal, it doesn’t matter.  It hurts.  Secondly, I don’t know that you can fully escape from the pain even when you respond in the most positive of ways. At some point, when you’re by yourself, it’s still there to kick you one more time. Finally, I’ve learned that it is living through these painful experiences that fortified not only my relationship with God, but my relationship with my wife.  Every day I thank God that I have a wife that, even in the scariest of times, never once contemplated leaving.  She has stood by me and helped me more than she will ever realize.

Much like a diamond is only formed when coal is exposed to incredibly high levels of pressure, we as human beings are reshaped when we are put through the fire.  What we come out as depends on us.  Will we become stronger individuals as the result of difficulty, or will we wilt under the pressure of difficulty?

In the past 4 years specifically, which dates back to when we almost lost Hannah, I’ve grown up a whole bunch.  I watched my youngest daughter fight for her life after a severe asthma attack almost took her. I experienced the pain of leaving a job that I loved. I wrestled with fear when a tumor was discovered on my wife’s brain. I struggled with feeling completely useless as I went through a near 2 year stretch of being unemployed. For a period of time, I even wrestled with my call to ministry.

Through all of that, what I have come to see now is that God was growing me up. The process hurt, but I can now look back and see that I am a very different person than I was four years ago.  Perhaps it was because of my stubborn streak that it took all of those events to move me to the place I currently am.  I truly hope that I can continue to mature spiritually without any more earth shattering events.

Back to the Garth Brooks song.  Do I wish that those experiences of the past four years hadn’t happened? Absolutely.  However, and it took me a very long time to get to this place, I’m thankful for how God brought me through each and every one of them because it has molded me into the man I am today.

I could have and would have very much liked to miss the pain, but then I just might have missed the dance that brought me here now.