They say that we are the sum total of our experiences; that each and everything we go through shapes who we become. I don’t know that I believe that completely, but it is true that life gives us many opportunities to shape our thoughts and convictions.
Peter has been fighting a stubborn sinus infection for over a month. He has had 3 rounds of antibiotics, blood work, a flu test, two strep tests, a mono test and now a CT scan. We are trying to get to the bottom of why he is not getting better. The other day, after another round of tests, he asked me a question. “Mom, can you get cancer in your sinuses?” That question opened the window to his fears and broke my heart. It also showed me that even though we as a family survived the battle with cancer, our minds were forever affected. It is like innocence was robbed from my children, as is evidenced by Peter’s simple question.
I know, I know…they can’t stay pain free forever. Something at some point in life will break the bubble of childhood and they will come to the reality that life can be hard and full of heartbreak. They will learn that life isn’t always fair and that you cannot always predict the outcome. I think the thing to remember is that life experiences DO shape them…and us. We cannot undo the fact that I had cancer and that Peter’s mind remembers that fact when there is unexplained illness. We can however, remember that I survived cancer and that God is faithful. I think it is how you allow the experience to shape you that is the important thing. We cannot control what happens to us in life, but we can choose how we will respond to what happens.
In our case, we could let fear take over every time we get a cold. Or we could remember that the cancer is gone and that every day is precious. I will not lie and tell you that I do not think about cancer. Every time I have a test, it crosses my mind as I wait for the results. Yet I cannot allow fear to dominate, or I will live a life imprisoned. I cannot let the losses consume me. I must look back and see the closeness of my family, the intimacy with my God, the care of my husband, and the inspiration in my words…all that came as a direct result of the dreaded C word. The main blessing I received was a new appreciation for life and realization that every breath is a gift. We do not know that…I mean really know it until a tragedy strikes. I am blessed to have a chance to live out this revelation. Not every one is so blessed.
Do my experiences shape me? Yep. Do they shape my children? Yep. We can see this from a simple question escapes their lips to reveal their hearts. Is it a bad thing for us to change based on our life experiences? It is only bad if we close our hearts to the process. After all we are being formed in his image. The word formed implies that it is an ongoing work. In the midst of a hardship we have to look for his hand. We have to focus on the good, while still acknowledging the bad. Otherwise, we are pretenders. It is not our experiences alone that determine who we become. We must remember he is the potter; we are the clay…so he uses these life experiences to shape us…if we let him.