I just finished reading a novel about a woman who believed herself to be cursed by god. The novel was The Sybil, by Nobel Prize winner Pär Lagerqvist. As it turns out, what the protagonist had believed was a curse was actually an incredible blessing, but she couldn’t figure that out. Not until the very end, not until the blessing vanished from her life altogether. When it disappeared — in an event that constituted a divine revelation — this wasn’t a depressing moment. Rather, life had given her such a wild ride that, by the time this revelation arose, she had already reached a state of total acceptance. Nonetheless, she had lived the vast majority of her life interpreting this blessing in self-reproach as though it were a punishment for an imagined sin.
I wondered: How sad must it be to spend your life believing you were cursed when, in fact, you were uniquely and tremendously blessed?
How many of us do precisely that?
I’ve had many experiences I never imagined were possible. Though they felt like they carried the signature of the divine, brought a wave of giddiness, a high for the soul, and often revealed miracles of great healing or great love, these experiences frequently left me distraught. I didn’t know what to do with them; they didn’t feel “normal.” I was used to an academic world, with its precise calculations and textbook sensibility. I was not used to my world, which appeared to bend flamboyantly around my deepest desires and most unorthodox intuitions in a festival of seemingly interactive “coincidences.”
Why did this terrify me?
It’s very human to fear what you don’t understand. But more than that, knowing that what I was living was not what most people considered “normal” made me feel deeply self-conscious: was I crazy? And it made me feel deeply alone: who could possibly relate?
Humans don’t always take well to having unique destinies.
… and each one of us has a unique destiny.
I prayed desperately to God to make some of these experiences / realities / “destinies” go away while wondering bitterly why I was being “targeted” for them. I convinced myself that maybe I was witnessing these extraordinary warps in space–time because perhaps I hadn’t made a life change I “should” have, on the “appropriate” schedule… or perhaps they were ripple effects of loose ends left untied in a whole other life… but how, then, could I “fix” them?
For years, these prayers never seemed to find an answer. I assumed I had to pray harder, try harder. For a long time, I begged God that, if there was a thing I needed to do to make the experiences stop, please make that clear, and I would do the thing. I just wanted to be a normal person, with a normal, relatable life, who needn’t question her sanity.
But life continued on in its merry, weird way.
With my thousand paranoid explanations for why the events of my life were so bizarre, I was on track to be like the old woman in the story: spending my life in suspicion. Seeing my blessings as burdens. Wondering what was “wrong” with me. In reality, I was living magic, veritable magic. I was witnessing wonders of unconditional love and its effortless ability to join souls across time, space, and worlds… and I couldn’t just relax into the wonder and the gratitude — could not even recognize much of this divine love — because I had instead convinced myself that this was all somehow “wrong” and I was upset with God for putting me through it. How much time I wasted feeling scared and bitter.
I was very lucky: one day several years ago, a peace came. An idea suddenly popped into my head that felt so radical it hardly felt like my own. The life-changing thought? Perhaps these experiences were so inescapable because… just maybe… God wanted me to have them.
… And not just that God wanted me to have them, but maybe the reason was benevolent!
So then it was no longer a question of how to shake these experiences… but rather how to accept that they were my lot in life.
And then not just how to accept they were my lot in life… but how to see them as gifts, and embrace the blessings they brought.
When we discover that we are being prodded toward territory for which no road map exists, we panic. We assume that, certainly, no human can be meant to be going there. For all we know, that mapless place could be a promised land, and we are its pioneer. But instead, we question our judgment, our faith, our performance as human beings, even our sanity and the very nature of God. Quite often, we answer those questions — unfairly — by deciding that our judgment is whack; our faith is silly; we are failing at life; we aren’t sane; and that, if there is a God, this God surely delights in teasing us. Which means that we eventually lose our trust. In the invisible, in life’s capacity for benevolence, and especially in ourselves.
Which is paralyzing. Because if you don’t feel like you can trust anything… then why even take a single step in any direction?
A pessimistic mindset has the power to transform a blessing into something that feels like a curse. The inherent love at the core of the experience, its vast potential for life-affirming wonder, are easily eclipsed by our fear, and that fear not only robs us of the gift’s beauty, but can even cast its shadow on everything else around us.
It was grace that shifted my thinking — a grace that, to be honest, I still can’t claim to have fully internalized. Because I still occasionally beg for release and question Heaven’s design when I run up against unique experiences I interpret as burdens.
But then, for perspective, I try to look at the past. I ask: “Is it at all possible that I was chosen for this experience? Is there any love or healing I can mine from this?” If the answer is yes, then I feel somehow a bit more empowered. Because I realize I can find something therein to share with others for their own healing.
Try those questions. You may discover that something amazingly beautiful can yet emerge. Don’t spend your life believing your blessings are a curse.