The Opportunist, the Open Door and the Persistent Widow

There are all sorts of people out there, aren’t there? You always have people who seem to be optimistic pessimists. They’re positive things are going to go wrong. They sigh and say, “Life…”

The optimists, on the other hand, take an expansive breath and say, “Ahhhh. Life!” The realists say, simply, “That’s life.” Then you have the opportunist, who comes from a whole other viewpoint. Whether things go well, things go wrong or things just go, there’s always opportunity.

To be honest, I think I’m a mingling of the bunch. I’ll take the opportunity, hope that it goes well, realize that it might not, and prepare for the worst. By the end of the day, I’m exhausted.

Opportunity is a Bad Word?

When I started this article, I thought the word opportunist had positive connotations. Apparently not. The Free Online Dictionary defines it as “one who takes advantage of any opportunity to achieve an end, often with no regard for principles or consequences.” That sounds very negative to me.

On the other hand, opportunity, as defined by the Reference Dictionary, is “an appropriate or favorable time or occasion, a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal, or a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success.”

So, while opportunity is a good thing, taking the opportunity when it appears is bad? Who knew? You can’t have your cake and eat it, too!

Sometimes Doors Open if you Bang Hard Enough

Half-open door to HeavenIn 2005, when J was born, I found myself without a job. I needed… you know what? Wait. Back up, rewind and start again.

I was originally going to share how I got into the online job market. In fact, this post got all the way to being scheduled for today when I realized I hadn’t ended it right. I hadn’t ended it right at all. I wasn’t happy with it, but I couldn’t figure out why. Now I know.

I was going to talk about how I’d used opportunity as a way to grow in my job. You see, I’d forgotten what really got me where I am. I want to share that story with you.

When J’s dad left, I was devastated. I prayed like crazy to a God I hadn’t talked to in years. “Father, I don’t know what to do. I’m trying as hard as I can to move forward in life and everything is failing. I don’t have any strength left. I’m lost. I’ve made such a mess of my life that I can’t fix it. Only You can. Please, help me.”

One night, as insomnia set in, I was watching a late night religious program. There just wasn’t anything else on. The woman preacher paced across a stage, talking about the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). It was over two years ago, but I still remember what she said:

“So, Jesus asks the man, ‘Do you want to be made well?’
The man says, ‘Yes, but no one will put me in the pool. Others step down in front of me.’
Jesus doesn’t say, ‘Oh, you poor man. That’s so horrible.’ No. He says, ‘Get up and make your bed.'”

It didn’t really sink in that night. The next night, I went to a friend’s house. While talking to her husband outside and moaning about my life, he said, “Well, Jahnelle, sometimes you just have to get up.”

A few minutes later, I went into the house to speak with my friend (whom, I might add, had not been part of the conversation outside). She nodded and said, “Yeah, sometimes you have to just take a deep breath and get up.”

I don’t know about you, and you might think I’m crazy, but that’s a huge, fat, glaring coincidence. Me, I decided to listen to what the cosmos were telling me. I got up. I worked like I’d never worked before. I poured my heart into trying to make money, increase my work skills and, in general, become as skilled and useful a person as possible. –And nothing happened.

I prayed. Couldn’t help it, really – I think it was more an automatic reaction than anything else. “God, I feel like you were telling me to get up and do. Well, I got up and I’m doing, and I don’t understand. I’m doing for all I’m worth, and still, nothing’s working!”

A week later, a family came over for dinner. I hurt inside, and the hurt was so deep I was choking on it. I’d seen how my choices had affected my children. I’d seen how out of control my life was, and how much they were paying for it. I don’t remember most of the conversation, but after talking to the husband for a while, he said, “Girl, you’re so full of hurt I can feel it across the table. What I don’t understand is why aren’t you back at church yet?”

I spent the rest of the evening arguing why that wasn’t possible. The next Sabbath rolled around and there I was, listening to the first sermon that ever made sense to me.

Two Years Later and Lessons Learned

I was baptized last Friday, March 2nd, 2012 at 4:00 p. m. I want to make sure I remember that date. The inner turmoil I’ve had all my adult life is gone, replaced by a calm I’ve never known before. That’s not to say the turmoil won’t be back, but for now – it’s so peaceful inside.

Throughout the past two years, I’ve prayed a lot. I’ve taken many opportunities. I’ve missed a lot of them, too. With each one I’ve taken, though, I’ve had to grow to meet it. I’ve had to grow in love. I’ve had to grow in faith. I’ve had to grow in knowledge and understanding.

I’ve had to recognize fears and embrace them. I’ve had to realize that I’m not perfect, and never will be. I’ve had to realize that control is an illusion and anger is a result of that illusion’s inability to hold up to reality.

I’m learning how to put God first, and how to put others before myself. I’m learning how to love my neighbor. I’m learning there are some things I can’t fix, no matter how hard I work. I’m learning mercy, kindness, and what it really means to care. I’m learning that persistence only counts when you’re persistent with things that matter.

In the meantime, my income has doubled each year over the one preceding. Oddly enough, I don’t spend every day, all day, all week, pouring myself into work as I used to. In the meantime, the majority of pain I’ve felt from missing my children is gone. All five of my children were together for the first time last August, and there have been many times since then. There is peace, where there was once chaos. There is love, where there was once a vast, empty space.

There is a world of opportunity.

At Every Point in Life, Opportunity is Knocking

Cliff Top View

Opportunity is everywhere…

Now, you don’t have to believe what I believe to get what I’m about to say. I know not everyone is religious, and I realize there are many religious views. That’s okay; we can agree to disagree. The purpose of this blog has nothing to do with religious affiliations; that’s just my story. It does, however, have everything to do with sharing lessons learned from life. One of the lessons is about opportunity.

At every point in life where there is pain, when we’re wishing things were different, there is an opportunity. We can open our eyes and take a good, long look around. We can see the things that led up to that point, if we’re willing, and decide to take a different road. We can decide not to react the way we’ve always done. It’s a process, but I hear most things worth striving for are.

Life is about choices. The choices we make and the choices made for us. Confronted with choice, we are also confronted with the opportunity to make better ones than we’ve made before. We can choose to learn. We can choose to accept the challenges of life and face them head on instead of burying our heads in the sand.

In short, we can choose to take the opportunities offered us –by life and by God – to grow, change and become better than we are.

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