"Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation."
—Elizabeth Gilbert (from “Eat, Pray, Love”)
Lately I’ve been searching for the right words of encouragement to console a dear friend who is fearful of being laid off. At work, everywhere she turns, there are people talking about the impending layoffs that were recently announced. That is the thing about fear—and how it gains power over us—it is rooted in a present threat.
I advised her to extract herself from these conversations when they occur. If she is a participant, she will only soak up the fear that is permeating the discussion.
I experienced this myself years ago when I first began to work in the Aerospace field. It is a particularly volatile field, with its cyclical share of layoffs throughout the years. Much like today, people rumoring and speculating surrounded me. Of course, I immediately felt I’d be targeted since I was one of the last hired and had no experience to speak of. I worried and worried. Then the layoff round was concluded, and no one in my organization was impacted. That’s when I realized that I spent all this valuable time and energy worrying about something that never occurred.
“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”—Matthew 6:27
My friend’s worry didn’t seem soothed by what I shared, so I found myself intellectualizing to console her. “You have skills that are extremely marketable. You are in the right demographic that companies are seeking. You are highly intelligent, capable, have a great work ethic, committed to going the extra mile, and as such have earned a good reputation. If...If the worse that you fear happened, you would find another opportunity because of your skills.”
“But, what if I don’t? I can’t leave the state because my divorce decree forces me to stay in the area.”
She made a good point. Again, fear is like that. It will consume us as it finds multiple ways to prove to us that we have every cause to be afraid. It gains a stranglehold of us and doesn’t allow us to see ways out of it, only more reasons to feel trapped by the fear.
No matter what I said to try to offer her hope, or redirect her focus away from the fear and toward the possibilities, she kept going back to, “What if I don’t find a job?” She was trapped in this downward spiral quicksand.
Though any one of us can fall victim to a layoff, I choose not to get caught up in the fear. I’ve seen how these quicksand moments have never produced anything good in my life, but instead robbed me of something vital—hope.
“We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield.”— Psalm 33:20
I rest my thoughts on faith— My faith that God will always bring about a better version of me, via these ruinous moments. In moments of fear, I remind myself “This is fear talking. Not God. God will always make a way for me.”
And sometimes when one thing after another goes wrong, I yield in exasperation or tranquil surrender,” Thank you God, for you must be preparing me for a transformation!” Sometimes these words are spoken with irony, and sometimes with trust. These ruinous moments are markers for impending change— impending growth. I think that’s why I don’t fear them as much anymore. I don’t want to go so far as to say that I invite them, however, I am learning to welcome them when they arrive. Fighting them doesn’t produce positive results, working through them does. Truth be told, sometimes I am invigorated and become expectant of the beautiful changes to follow—Specifically, how God will refine me.
“I am about to do something new. It is beginning to happen even now. Don't you see it coming? I am going to make a way for you to go through the desert. I will make streams of water in the dry and empty land.”—Isaiah 43:19
I am reminded of the time when I graduated from college, got married, and moved clear across the country (all in one weekend!) to begin a new life with my new husband! I was excited to begin this new adventure, this new dream.
The winter was brutally cold— as was my new husband it turns out. I found myself victim to his continual emotional, and physical abandonment. I never could have imagined the solitude and despair of being alone in a state where I knew no one, and a spouse who became a stranger. The honeymoon phase was never to be. Instead it was my moment of “ruin.”
He volunteered for the night shift, so our paths rarely crossed. When we could have some time together, he opted to escape by going to work out or just give me the silent treatment.
After months of my attempts to understand what was behind his abrupt shift, he finally admitted, “I just don’t want to be married.”
He agreed to marriage counseling, but his heart was never sincerely into it. One evening, during one such session, he sat several feet across from me (and behind the counselor’s back, where she couldn’t see his face), and mocked me as I shared my vulnerability.
Catching sight of his mocking smirk, I unexpectedly jet propelled out of my seat, stormed toward the door at mach speed, and undoubtedly damaged the sheet rock as I threw the door open. I was abruptly infused with an overabundance of energy and determination. As I drove home, with tears blasting through the dam of misery contained for months, I kept repeating ever so clearly, “I’m done. It’s time to take care of myself!” That evening I experienced my last kick in the gut from him.
Prior to that evening, my broken heart was hanging onto shreds of hope, seeking resolution and healing for the marriage. But that evening, the shreds abruptly severed. Somewhere along the highway, I was completely out of tears and sorrow. God didn’t leave me to wallow in the misery. He infused me with energy and hope to take action. The next day, I contacted a manager who had formerly offered me a job in Texas, and began the process of rebuilding my life from the ruins.
In my life, I have experienced and emerged from other moments of “ruin,” much as I believe you’ve experienced your share, as well. Life is about constant change and evolution. Ruins are an integral part of this process.
I believe we must be intentional not to live life as if looking down a train track, paralyzed by the fear, that a ruin will arrive. Rest assured, life will bring on ruin in its own time. We shouldn’t add to our suffering by prematurely worrying about “what if’s.” When one arrives, we can invite God’s guidance to illuminate a passageway out of the quagmire and teach us how to rebuild.
The key to navigating through fear and uncertainty is to approach it with humility. Humility isn’t consumed with worry. Humility doesn’t try to control all outcomes. We do what is within our power to prepare and protect ourselves, but beyond that, we cannot control. Thinking we can, is a lie our egos tell, and it is the source for much duress and restlessness. When we surrender and let go of everything we are fearfully and desperately clenching, we make room for the possibilities, the alternatives, and the blessings. This is when transformation occurs— when we surrender to the ruin.
Copyright © 2011 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved.
"I leave my peace with you. I give my peace to you. I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be troubled. And do not be afraid.”—John 14:27