Somebody once said there is no difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones aside from the way we use them. Life has taught me that while one can put a stumbling block in my way, I am the one who decides whether I am going to use those stones to get ahead in life. The older I get, the more I realize the most important thing we can do is recognize that our path in life is actually built out of stepping stones instead of stumbling blocks. What seemed at first to be a terrible barrier has inevitably turned out to be an opportunity. Like Madge, ” the voice of our car’s GPS, I often need to stop and recalculate.
Of course, life is filled with uneven patches, bumpy roads, and stony barriers. Sometimes I am confronted with giant boulders that threaten to destroy my faith — as when my husband died. Yet, knowing that even in the face of heartbreak and death, I still am the one who has the opportunity to decide how to respond gives me a sense of hope and serenity. While I can’t control most of what happens, I always have a say in how I will respond.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks I’ve encountered over the years has been a tendency toward self-doubt and shame when dealing with the consequences of past mistakes and failures. It can be tempting to run away from reality or to blame others for my own inadequacies, but I am learning to accept what is without judgment. In fact, accepting “this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it” is one of the most helpful tools I’ve gained over the years. After all, I can’t turn my stumbling blocks into stepping stones if I refuse to accept what actually is. Many times I have longed to give up, to hang on to resentment and rejection, but in time what seemed like an incredible barrier turned into an opportunity to move me into God’s open and inviting future.
Obstacles need not keep us from experiencing the good in life. Frequently, what starts as an obstacle can point us in new directions. What may seem frightening and overwhelming can become an opportunity if we’re willing to change and adapt. Self-pity never helps anyone, but changing the things we can change (even if it’s just our attitude) has this way of opening doors. After all, our success lies not in never failing or making mistakes but in accepting hardship as the pathway to peace, trusting that He will make all things right if we surrender to His will. In time I learned that instead of being ashamed that alcoholism is part of our family history, I am both grateful and proud that we’ve been able to turn tragedy into triumph, self-hatred into humility, and fear into faith. Rebirth and resurrection is the central theme of our Christian faith; that, in Christ, there is no failure or death. There is only the ongoing process of creation. new beginnings, transformation, resurrection, rebirth. Tennyson said it well when he wrote in his poem In Memoriam,” Men may rise on stepping stones of their dead selves to higher things, ” or as John wrote in the prologue to his Gospel, “the Light-Life blazed out of the darkness, and the darkness could never put it out.”