On the Way to Becoming

November 6, 2011

From the time we are born, we are always on our way to becoming something.  We are embryos on our way to becoming a child.  We are children on our way to becoming teenagers who think we know everything.  We are teenagers who are as smart as we will ever be, on our way to becoming adults.  We are adults who are as informed as we will ever be, on our way to becoming elderly.  We are old now and we have a whole journey to look back on and see how far we have come, on our way to becoming.

Our journey through life is made up of myriad parts, some wonderful, some not so wonderful, some good, some bad, but all of them contribute their essential learning experiences to what we have become.

They say, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  I don’t subscribe to that theory.  It implies that we have thought about the things that haven’t killed us, but we have only to look around, talk to people, listen to their stories and get their points of view, to know that many of them have survived without becoming stronger.  Many of them have survived without learning a single thing or being any wiser.  They have simply survived and endured.

I was talking to a man who had survived a severe stroke.  The doctors didn’t expect him to live beyond that night.  His wife and several of her friends gathered around his hospital bed and prayed over him all night.  He survived.  He couldn’t talk or move parts of his body or communicate in any intelligible way and the doctors told his wife that he was going to be brain damaged, a vegetable.  She would not accept that.

Once again, she marshaled her forces and she and her friends prayed over him, day and night, alternating shifts so that, for the next few months, he was never alone and never without a few of them praying over him.

A few years later, they came to visit me.  He was walking perfectly, speaking perfectly, and using his fine mind the way he always had.  When they told me what he had endured, I asked him if he had changed any part of his life as a result of that experience.  He seemed surprised by the question and said, “No, when I recovered I went back to business as usual.  Nothing has changed.  Was it supposed to?”

In my thinking, when one survives a life-defining moment, everything changes.  Your perception about life and death takes on new meaning.  Your perception about disability and your resulting limitations has to change.  Your understanding of important issues becomes sharper, more acute.  Your relationships have to undergo subtle changes, and he said he didn’t experience any of the things I put before him.

How does one undergo a near-death encounter and not change a single thing in one’s thinking or in one’s actions?  And yet, he and his wife both agreed that not a single thing had changed.

What happened on his way to becoming?  Did he miss some steps along the way?  Did he not question his mortality or the meaning of life?  Did he not experience a deeper connection to God for having his mind and body restored to 100% health?  He claims not.

So, apparently you can survive near-death experiences, be restored to perfect health after losing bodily and mental functions and not become stronger physically, mentally, or emotionally.  You can go through soul-destroying moments without becoming wiser or more spiritual.  You can even escape the journey of being on the way to becoming.  You can just become older without being on the way to becoming anything else.

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