Back when I was still living in Ohio, in the fall, my dear friend Donna and I would make a trip up to Canada, to Niagara-on-the-Lake, for the Shaw Festival. She and I had a similar outlook on life, which says that too much of a good thing is usually going to end up leading to a bad thing. And on this particular trip, we were the luckiest two women on earth. It was like one moment of bliss after another: the meals, the B & B where we stayed, and the marvelous plays. We’d walk into a theatre to see if we could get rush tickets and end up with the best seats in the house. Then we’d sit down in our primo seats, which we got for half price, and smile at each other.
But the next thing you know, we’d both get this horrified look on our faces as it dawned on us that, “Something bad is going to happen.” It became our mantra on the whole trip. Wonderful things kept happening to us and every time, we’d shake our heads realizing that this was just too good and we were going to pay for it. “Something bad is going to happen.” And you know what, eventually it did. Not on the trip, but after we got home, Donna learned the devastating news that her daughter was getting a divorce.
I don’t know where I ever got into this something-bad-is-going-to-happen mentality. Perhaps it was from too many years of watching “Guiding Light” on T.V. You know how it is in soap operas. When they get to the point where everyone is happy, and they’re all back together again and they’re laughing, and our favorite couple is getting married and the bride is looking happier than we’ve ever seen her. Then, out of the blue, what happens? She coughs. And you know what that means because you’ve been down this road so many times before. Something bad is going to happen.
But, you know what? Something bad is always going to happen. Sometimes we do stupid things and bring trouble upon ourselves or sometimes it just happens for no apparent reason. Eventually, people get sick. People die. It’s unavoidable. That’s reality. Something bad is going to happen. You can count on it.
Life is spent in the valley with momentary visits to the mountaintop. That’s our reality. And in the valley, sooner or later, something bad happens. But it’s the time on the mountain that gets us through the rough times in the valley. We can wring our hands and fret about it, afraid to enjoy ourselves when life seems too good to be true. But then we’re squandering the gift God has given us.
God gives us moments that fill us, and if we’re wise, we’ll not waste them. When we can party, we party. When we can sing, we sing. When we can dance, we dance. When we can savor the splendor of God’s created universe, we savor it. When we can surround ourselves with people who fill us with joy, we do. When someone offers to love us, we let them. When we can lose ourselves in mystical moments of transcendence with God, however those may happen for us, we do. When we can draw upon the amazing strength of the Community of Christ gathered, we do. When we’re given a time apart to hear God’s Word for us, we’re all ears. When we’re invited to gather at the table for Holy Communion, we’re at the altar with hands outstretched. So many times, in so many ways, God fills us with his presence. Then when we return to reality, and we’re being drained by the pressures and challenges of life, we have a reservoir of blessings to draw from.
Have you ever heard the saying, “God never gives you more than you can handle”? I hate that! Because it’s not true, on two counts. First, I would hesitate to say that God is the one who gives it to us. And second, I’ve seen plenty of times when people have more than they can handle. But there is something I’ve learned to be true for myself in those times when it seems like I’m dealing with more than I can handle. And it’s this: God gives me what I need so that I can handle more than I ever thought I could. I suspect it’s true for all of us, when we’re open to receive the blessings God sends our way.
Whenever you’re on the mountaintop, may you milk it for all it’s worth. Then you can take it with you on your journey in the valley. And you'll be able to say that God has truly blessed your life. Not because nothing bad ever happens to you, but because God has given you all that you need for the journey. And you'll find yourself handling more than you ever thought you could.