Photo Credit: Darryl Millette
Resistance is an old friend of mine. She knows the arc of my back going up and places a comforting hand on my shoulder to let me know I am not alone. But three times in the same week, I heard familiar words from Deuteronomy: “See, I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. Choose life.” I dismissed the first two without thinking about it. Who actually chooses death? The third time I asked the question, the answer spilled out of me. I do.
I was reading Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak, a tiny book that undoes me every time I go back to it. And his reflection on this passage broke me open again. He wisely acknowledges that this warning is in Deuteronomy because sometimes death feels safer and more familiar than the new life that lies beyond it. We can make friends with death and adversity.
Despite my dramatic tendencies, I resist dramatic statements about death and evil as a general rule. Fear is a terrible way to introduce the God of love I have encountered, and hell and brimstone, rigid approaches to teaching and rules, and overly dramatic responses to poor choices have almost never turned hearts toward love for the long haul in my experience. But the title of this piece resonates with the gift God gave me as I read: I choose death when I go for coffee with Resistance.
Resistance sidles up with a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and invites Righteousness, and the three of us make a right mess of my world.
The conversation and decisions that come out of this relationship feel familiar and effortless, which I mistake easily for life. But the aftermath begs for another look every single time. Resistance follows me home from the coffee date and feeds Resentment because no amount of wanting things to be different than they are changes Reality.
At different seasons in my life, I needed the protection Resistance offered because I wasn’t ready to face reality. She sheltered me from greater pain and gave me space and time to grow. Having grown and healed, however, I am recognizing that I have outgrown my friendship with Resistance because she brings more pain that she shelters me from now. It just took me awhile to see because the resistance has become an insidious habit.
It’s minus 37 degrees out and it feels like minus 51 and I resist going outside because it is easier and cozier to stay inside.
There are decisions to be made by people who aren’t me, and I resist the patience and lack of control that are my part. To satisfy Resistance, I try to control everything at home, as if clean floors and quiet children could alleviate my discomfort with waiting.
I have a plan and it is failing, and I resist its failure, putting it on life support unnecessarily, prolonging the inevitable. I choose the painful death over the peaceful one that can give way to something new.
I’m breaking it off with Resistance. She means well but the time has come for us to drift apart. It will probably take some time for the break-up to be complete, as I suspect I will be tempted to call her from time to time when Reality proves to be just a bit too much life for me. And there’s an insight there too – I choose death when I am afraid of the life and prosperity and blessing that lies before me.
Resistance is a manifestation of fear for me and God has shown me that fear is never the best plan for my life. Fear is a warning sign rather than a place to make a home and Resistance is only a friend if she leads me eventually to Reality.
There are deep and wonderful gifts in the world as it is, when I am ready to befriend Reality. Today I will put on my mittens and my hat and let the frost form on my eyelashes, breathing deeply into the energy that comes from laying my feet on the earth. I will wait with wonder at the grace available in an in between place, laughing with my children at how hard it is for grown-ups to wait. (We will leave the ski-pants on the floor so I can practice.) And I will let go of my plan and choose the life that follows what falls apart.
Today, I choose life.