Moments of Clarity
Moments of clarity. Sometimes we ignore them, often we misunderstand them, and sometimes we completely fail to recognize them.
That creates challenges for us because without those moments of clarity, we live in a cesspool of chaos and corruption swamped by challenges we have no idea how to resolve. Forget content or happy. When mired in a muddle of conflict, there is no content or happy. We’re angry and lost in smoky fog, struggling to make sense of things that just don’t make sense. Condemned to tiptoeing through hot coals trying our best just to not get burned.
The problem is easy to identify. We know that chaotic discord is a miserable way to live. So we ask ourselves, what’s the solution? How do we not live this way?
The answer is simple—and complex. We notice, recognize and understand these moments of clarity then seize the wisdom and insights that offers.
Notice. Recognize. Understand. Okay, great. But how? If we knew that answer from the beginning, we would notice, recognize and understand these moments of clarity. We don’t and haven’t. So what solves the problem?
When you’re a writer, you come to realize that everything in life relates to every other thing in life. Every single incident, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time, proves important and has value.
Eventually, these little, seemingly insignificant incidents combine, piggybacking on each other to form a bigger picture. When they occur, because they seem little, we just don’t notice them or grasp that they’re taking shape in something bigger. Typically, we experience little things and then dismiss or ignore them all together because we’re busy with the mundane details in life. These mundane details, often responsibilities, have our immediate attention.
It’s prudent to add that sometimes we deliberately ignore these little insignificant incidents. We choose not to see them as signs because to notice them requires us to step outside our comfort zones and actually do something we don’t want to do. It’s much easier on us to pretend not to notice them at all so we don’t have to do anything to address the problem being revealed much less to do the work to fix the problem.
Regardless, the problems persist, often looming larger and growing more complex until the inevitable time comes when we can no longer avoid them. We collide with the force of a car slamming into a brick wall. Choice is the fatality. Pandora’s box is open, the problem is front and center, and we must deal with it. Now.
I’m talking about those times, welcome or not, when we are graced (or body-slammed) with a clarity so stark it shines like a floodlight on something in our lives. Our minds reveal crystal clear insights that flow over us like heated silk and, like the butterfly, we emerge from the the clarity cocoon transformed.
And transformed, we again have a choice.
We eigther accept the wisdom revealed and solve the problem or we emerge from the cocoon and talk ourselves out of believing our clear insight is truly wise. We rebuff the wisdom.
When we rebuff, more often than not, we turn our backs on the wise revelations because a multitude of things have conspired to encourage us to refute it. Fear. Doubt. Guilt. Shame. We cave and we suffer the consequences: regret.
Yet we shouldn’t be sorry, and that’s the message in this—at least, for me. We get what we need when we get it and when we need it.
Sometimes we have to wait for events and insights to line up like the proverbial ducks, so that we have the foundation we need to be able to grasp and interpret accurately the insight and wisdom coming to us.
Perhaps, if we grasped the wisdom too soon, we would misinterpret it. Then, in following and giving that inaccurately perceived wisdom, we would do more harm than good.
It’s like giving a five-year-old a copy of The Art of War and expecting the child to understand that there’s more text between the lines than on the page. No foundation means no understanding, no recognition, no contexg, and the subtleties float right over the child’s head.
These are the reasons why things happen as they do. You can give a kid a book he can read but if he doesn’t comprehend what he’s read, it’s a futile exercise. Just as you can share a loaf of bread with someone but only what that person chooses to eat and is capable of eating at that time will be eaten.
Many of us worry about comprehending true meanings. I’m no different. I have worried about these types of things since early on in life. When you have a brother who’s left a vegetable at five months old and he lives for eighteen years, you think about true meanings and the why of things a great deal.
I remember as a six-year-old child being at Sunday school and asking a pastor about hell. I couldn’t understand why, if God loves us as much as they say and He is perfect, then why would He condemn us to hell forever. My parents were not perfect, but they would never do that to me. So did that mean my parents loved their children more than God loved His children? The pastor was furious, and kicked me out of Sunday school.
I walked the half-block home terrified. How would I ever tell my parents I’d been kicked out of Sunday school? They’d be so angry. But you know, I was angry, too. Until that time, I thought that pastor spoke for God. Kind of translated so the rest of us could understand what God wanted and what He had to say.
I realized that morning that this particular pastor did not, because even my little six-year-old mind knew God wouldn’t throw out or throw away one of His kids.
I went into the house, certain I’d be busted until I died of old age. Of course, I went to Mom, because she was the soft touch. Dad was heavy-duty discipline. Much to my surprise, my mom thought I’d asked a reasonable question. And she explained that God doesn’t condemn His children. He kind of puts them on restriction so they learn not to hurt themselves that same way again.
Her response made sense then, and makes sense now. That was a moment of clarity for me, and a moment when I believe God spoke through my mother to my child’s heart.
As I mentioned earlier, everything is fodder for writers. It must be for us to create credible characters. Characters emulate real people. And real people have all kinds of experiences that help shape them into the individuals they become.
It isn’t one incident that makes a person. It shouldn’t be one incident that destroys them. The best characters are more complex. More real. They’ve known sadness and joy, they’ve feasted and hungered, they’ve lived. They’ve been kicked out for crossing proverbial lines. And they’ve been blessed with unexpected moments of grace. Moments where they’ve been forgiven for a wrong done. Been treated kindly when they could have been scorned. Been loved, respected, admired, honored. They’ve experienced moments of clarity and gained wisdom and insight that they’ve taken in and moved forward in life, carrying the wisdom from those moments with them.
Can a single incident have a significant impact on a person? Absolutely. Can a single incident change the course of a person’s life? Absolutely. Provided you include all the experiences and beliefs that shaped that person into the person they are at the time of the incident.
It isn’t a part of us or a single aspect of us that this major, significant incident impacts. It’s all of us—and that includes the sum of our experiences. Good and bad times, ups and downs—all of it. Because all is what’s shaped our world view. All of us is the result of all we know, all we experience, all we believe and all we don’t. And it’s from that perspective we view the incident and then react to it.
I’m still working through these things with Amanda Blake, the lead character in a book I’m writing. She’s so smart in so many ways. In some, she’s amazing and remarkably flawed, which is what first made me want to write about her. Amanda’s mom died in childbirth with her and her dad can’t bear to look at her because of it. Amanda has grown up, spent her whole life trying to create a bond with him, trying to gain his respect. She gave up on him ever loving her a long time ago.
That was a moment of clarity for me that made me want to learn her story. Every little girl first falls in love with her dad. He’s her hero. The man against whom every other man in her life is measured. She’s his princess, his angel, the twinkle in his eye. And Amanda had never had any of that. She’d never had the security of her father’s love, the confidence of his protection, or even his guidance. And she’d had no mother there to soften those blows or to help her navigate life without any of it. How did she do that? How did she make it? How did it impact her? Of course, I wanted to know.
I knew the impact would be significant. Profound. Heart-wrenching. I had to write her story to see how she survived it. Intact? Deeply wounded? Scarred forever? Who knew? Could be any of those ways, some combination of them, or none of them. I had to write her story to find out.
Well, I started writing and right off the bat Amanda had a brilliant moment of clarity—an opportunity to embrace a moment of grace. Yet she didn’t do it. She wanted to, she was inspired to, she wasn’t just motivated to seize it, she yearned to embrace the moment and claim it as her own. But a lifetime of her father’s rejection created a deep-seated, bitter fear that battled her for that moment, and fear won. Her heart just couldn’t take one more break.
I was sorely disappointed, but I couldn’t give up on her. I wracked my brain for ways to get her from where she was to where she needed to be to become strong enough (or willing to risk being devastated again) to plant her stake on a balanced life. Everything that came to me got shot down. Nothing felt right. Nothing worked. Nothing resolved her challenges in light of all her experiences.
It became clear, I wasn’t going to mentally shape events for Amanda. I’d have to write her whole story her way to see if she ultimately won her battle or if fear did. So I kept writing, hoping she’d not blown her chance—sometimes opportunity only knocks once, right?
At that dark, fearful-for-her moment, a memory popped into my mind of a woman who in her old age was asked why she never married. She responded she always had wanted go be married, but she hadn’t because the last time she’d been asked, she hadn’t known it was going to be the last time she was asked.
That woman coming to mind right then worried me. Had that rejected momeng been Amanda’s last shot? I really, really wanted her to have some happiness in her life. Some contentment. The woman hadn’t had any in her first twenty-eight years. That’s for sure.
I wrote and wrote. Bad things happened. Hard things. Little and big things, but nothing that would bring Amanda solace or comfort or make her life more content.
In fact, things got worse and then worse, and I was nearly to the end of the story. Almost there, just pages away. And, I admit it, I was freaking out. The knots in my stomach had knots because poor Amanda had survived a living hell and there was no sign of any second chance on her horizon.
I prayed, pleaded, begged, but it just wasn’t happening. And honestly, the writer in me had no idea what to do. The woman in the writer was in a full-out rebellion, and mutiny was a keystroke away. I would not, would not, condemn Amanda to less than she could have. She would have someone on her side, who believed in her. I would not leave her isolated and alone and emty. No way. If I had to delete the whole book out of existence to prevent it, I would do it. I’d start over at page one, but I wouldn’t abandon Amanda in this struggle. Not happening.
At that moment, all these years later, I felt a lot like an imperfect parent, wanting the best for her child. I felt a little of how God must feel, wanting the best for His children. And right then, I experienced the answer through the same emotions I had connected to the question I asked at six. And in that moment of clarity I knew the answer to that question. God, a perfect parent, never gives up. Never. And I, an imperfect one, might be hanging onto hope by a hangnail, but I would hang on forever if that’s what it took. I would not give up on Amanda.
Clear-minded and determined, I wrote on. Then, scant pages later, there it was. That moment of grace. That second chance. A new opportunity. And Amanda took it.
I couldn’t believe it. I never saw it coming. And I realized she hadn’t either. She’d wished and hoped and desired a better, more content life, and heaven knew she suffered for it. She tried making things better. But when that moment actually came, I was as shocked as she. Yet when I looked back through what I’d written, I saw the building blocks. The little things. The seemingly insignificant things that served as the vehicle to take her from where she was to where she wanted to be. It wasn’t a single, explosive event but a series of little events experienced in everyday life—and how she reacted to them—that reshaped her mind and her world.
I sat back and thought about that. Long and hard. I saw the little events in my own life, too. The series of second chances I’d missed. And I discovered something huge in them:
It isn’t the lack of opportunities that plants us in bad positions. It’s that we stop seeking opportunities so they come and pass because we don’t recognize them as they present themselves. We don’t seize them. We convince ourselves our chance has come and gone and it’s over. We missed the proverbial boat. Man, was I wrong!
I’m not saying someone steps in with a magic wand and our troubles disappear. I am saying when we tackle those problems and chip away at them, we view them differently. We don’t miss them. We see them as vehicles.
I’m saying that when we shift our perspective, we become aware. We notice those wise and insightful opportunities and recognize them. I’m saying that then we experience what we seek in profound and insignificant moments we expect will somehow in some way piggyback into something of significance and become moments of clarity.
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© 2016, Vicki Hinze. Vicki Hinze is the award-winning bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is The Marked Star. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website: www.vickihinze.com. Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. Subscribe to Vicki’s Monthly Newsletter!