From the moment we enter this world and take air into our lungs, we experience our first rite of passage – birth. In fact, life is basically a series of rites of passage. If our life was a roadmap, they would be the mile markers. We take pride in them. We celebrate them. We sometimes even define ourselves by them. I’ve always classified my own rites of passage as mainly high points of change or moments of achievement, but when I looked up the definition, I was surprised by what I learned.
A rite of passage is defined as “a ritual associated with a crisis or a change of status (as marriage, illness, or death) for an individual” according to Merriam-Webster.com online dictionary.
Crisis? Change? Those are hard! Right?
When I really think about all the times of crisis or change in my life, I realize that they were certainly rites of passage, and they substantially impacted my life. It’s easy to celebrate the “good” rites of passage like birthdays, winning games, graduations, and weddings. We just get together and throw a party with food, fun, and sometimes an exchange of gifts. But honestly, should we start celebrating times of crisis?
Yes, we should, and here’s why:
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.“
James 1:2-4 (NLT)
Great joy in times of trouble? Um, that’s hard.
It’s hard to find joy in the tough moments of our lives. When we are hurting, disappointed, or feeling like a failure, we are not exactly jumping up and down with sheer delight. I don’t know about you, but in hard times, I find myself praying to God that He would remove the hardship. My initial reaction is usually frustration. I become so consumed by my own feelings that I often fail to see the bigger picture…you know, the one that God’s ALWAYS sees.
When I think about my childhood, some of my favorite memories involve the “happy” rites of passage. The big birthday bashes that my mom threw for me, my first dance recital, my baptism at age 12, my first job at the Hawaiian ice place, my first date, graduating, and my first day of college are some of my favorites. It’s fun to recall the happy moments.
I remember the less desirable rites of passage too. I won’t forget breaking a bone for the first time when I was in middle school. I landed on my hand wrong while attempting to do a back handspring. I remember not making the middle school cheerleading team my sixth grade year, after all those hours of gymnastics lessons. I will never forget being in the hospital room with all of my mom’s side of the family and seeing my aunt and uncle crying hysterically while holding my 18 year-old cousin who passed away in a tragic accident. I had never experienced that kind of loss before. It opened my eyes to the frailty of life. I definitely grew up a little that day.
Moments of crisis have the power to change us for the better, yet we often reject the change. We don’t feel like finding joy in the pain, and we certainly don’t want to throw a party. So, why do we have to walk through these yucky rites of passage? WE MUST GROW, and we have the most growth through trying times, if we allow it. THAT is worth celebrating…but not the same way we do when things are “good”.
Many of us are experienced participators in the rituals of crisis celebration, but we may not even realize it. Here are a few ways we “celebrate” times of crisis:
1. When we don’t get picked, we keep on trying until we do.
2. When we get injured, we take advantage of our immobility and use that time to slow down and get to know our loved ones better.
3. When we experience a loss, we draw close to our friends and family and celebrate our loved one’s life by sharing our fond memories of him/her.
4. When we lose a job, we utilize our time at home to hone our skill, learn a new skill, or pursue a new opportunity.
Again, these are just a few, but regardless of the circumstance, we can find joy in it through persevering and using it for good. These kind of rites of passage pack a punch but can make us stronger as long as we get back up on our feet. It is a “passage” after all. We are not meant to live in a state of crisis. God allows us to experience hardship to make us better. We must remember that walking through these tough rites of passage is the ONLY way we can become “complete” and “needing nothing” (James 1:4). There is great purpose in the pain…we are learning and growing. It never feels good at the time, but growth IS good. Let’s embrace ALL rites of passages as the gifts that they truly are and the role they play in growing us to the complete person that God created us to be.
For more on finding joy during the tough seasons of life, please check out “Things to Remember When Life Hurts”, by clicking here.