The following post is a bit out of the ordinary from some of our regular genre. First of all, it is written by one of our ‘children’, Callie M. We met Callie, when she was just a baby, her parents took Prep for Parenting, well it had to have been the late 80’s as Callie will soon be a college graduated. You can read more about Callie and her family on her blog site Callie’s Perspective. My purpose in sharing Callie’s Perspective and Reflection on College is in part for those of you just beginning your parenting journey and other’s further down the road with college years rapidly approaching; to be encouraged knowing the foundation you are laying now in the life of each child will carry him or her well into the future. A future that as parents, you can only prepare and equip your child for but a future you cannot control. Life is a journey for each one of us and God has lessons for us to learn along the way … Callie shares some of her life lessons with us, hope you enjoy it.
Blessings on your journey in parenting and life,
I’ve been studying Flannery O’Connor quite a lot lately for school. I taught a class on four of her short stories this last Monday. I chose her as the author for my teaching day because the first time I read her, I didn’t know what to do with her. Her stories are all stunningly beautiful and interesting and –– as any writer knows –– brilliant. But they are sad and violent and strange. They made me think.
Maybe what makes them so good is that they’re so . . . real. Christians often don’t like to look at the ugliness of the world. We don’t like to see the sin and pain or anything too jarring.
I’ve been like that most of my life. I would toss away any story with a slightly unhappy ending, completely frustrated by it. I would fall apart at the first sign of struggle, tension or heartbreak in my life. I was that girl that believed in prince charming and sunny days and a life that was like a movie –– a happy one with good music, of course.
But then, I got a little bit older. There were fights. There was bad heartbreak. There was rejection. There was failure. There was disappointment. There was stress and money problems. I don’t exactly think I’d been stupid before –– I just hadn’t come up against this all at once before. I couldn’t understand why my optimistic, romantic view of life wasn’t panning out. What if I let people down? What if I fail at this job? Why doesn’t he love me back? What happens if I can’t make my rent payment? How do I deal with missing my sisters so much that I ache? I didn’t like it.
Not that my life was ever bad –– no, on the contrary it’s been extraordinarily blessed. But I think I just came into a fuller realization of the pain in the world. Not just mine, but everyone’s. And my little heart was heavy. I wondered if I was just getting wiser, or was I losing my optimism?
Yes, I was a die-hard romantic, but over these last few years, I found myself asking: Is it bad if I’m not anymore?
I think Flannery answered that question for me. She brought together a lot of the truths I’ve been learning over these years of college. Torrey’s mantra is that we want to pursue the good, the true and the beautiful. And it’s been hard work. These last four years haven’t been a walk in the park . . . yet, in some ways they have. What I mean is: I didn’t always find the good, the true or the beautiful, but the route was scenic. Maybe just the act of looking for them is optimistic — because that means you believe the good is out there. God is out there.
As Flannery’s stories showed me so poignantly, the good and beautiful in life are sometimes still painful. And the pain isn’t something to shun. One of my favorite Flannery quotes is “Grace is change, and change is painful.” That’s hopeful, isn’t it? Hard, but hopeful. Maybe the definition of optimism is seeing that pain is grace. It too can be beautiful.
I thought maybe I lost my optimism in a slew of real life — work, tuition checks, conflict and boy drama. But then, I think of sitting in the sun on my deck, eating Panda Express with Lizzie, re-reading “Blue Castle,” laughing at the antics of my two-year-olds in my Sunday School class, cooking, sleeping, chatting, giggling…
These are both part of reality and I can’t ignore the good that comes along with pain. And I can see the good in the pain that comes from pursuing the good, the true, and the beautiful –– God. He’s hard to find here on earth sometimes. Yet, He’s magnificently everywhere.
“Grace is change, and change is pain.”
Maybe I’m more of a realist now. Maybe like Flannery, I can see the jarring and the ugly in life, and I hope I won’t run the other way. Knowing that grace and beauty are at the end –– and in between times too –– I think that makes me an optimist.