Two weeks ago, I had the good fortune and opportunity to meet and visit with a lady in San Diego County who is a professional counselor, one who has been in this profession, as well as teaching, for many years. This meeting came at the suggestion of someone special in my life, a woman I met recently, though we both feel like we have known each other much longer. Since that time, she and I have discovered we have many mutual interests and she’s one of those people that have just “happened” to appear in my life like so many others over the past two years, though this is very different. Where this relationship is headed I’m not really sure. I do know this; she came into my life for a reason and I sense we are embarking on a journey together that will last a very long time. When she asked if I would be willing to see someone whom she felt might be able to shed a third-party perspective on where I’m going with the new life I’ve embarked on, as well as an objective view of our budding relationship, I immediately accepted her invitation. After all, it’s not like the first time I saw a “counselor!”
When I met with this counselor, we talked for about an hour. I thoroughly enjoyed her and it was kind of funny in a way. When I woke that morning to go meet her for the first time, it occurred to me that this was the sort of thing I used to absolutely despise, “getting counseling.” However, after looking back over the past several years and remembering the literally hundreds of hours spent in group counseling sessions, numerous private sessions, AA meetings, out-patient treatment, as well as interactions with others in various ways, and all the good that came out of that, I was eagerly looking forward to this encounter. For those of you who have been in counseling yourself and have seen first-hand the positive effect it had on your life, you will understand why I was so eager. For those of you who haven’t, or who may simply disagree with this stance, I ask only for your patience and an open heart and mind in the message I’m trying to convey.
One of the things she and I discussed was the quote I frequently refer to as “God gives us only what we can handle.” To be fair, that’s not what most people think it says in the Bible, though everyone is familiar with this terminology. The actual quote is in Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” She was cautioning me that I had a lot of unfinished business to attend to; just finishing school, searching for work, finding my own place, taking care of my children, finding my own identity, and so on. What she was driving at of course, was whether I could handle developing and integrating a new relationship with the woman I had recently met, into my already full and transitioning lifestyle. My reply? “I’ve been saying for a very long time that God didn’t give me so much as a plate, it’s more like a cattle trough. He seems to think I can handle quite a bit and honestly, I can!” That’s where she disagreed with me philosophically about what I had referred to about God and this plate business, primarily because it was her belief through counseling numerous people over a number of years, instances where she felt her clients had been dealt a bad hand when it came to senseless tragedies in their lives, such as the death of a loved one.
It was at that point when I held my ground with my beliefs. The death of my own mother at the young age of 39 immediately came to mind as a perfect example of what she was speaking of as a senseless tragedy. I choose to see our family’s “senseless tragedy” quite differently. Enough time has passed since my mother’s death 38 years ago, and although I cannot bring her back, I view it today as something I can draw positive motivation and strength from. Though I was a 13 year old boy at the time of her death, I can honestly say now as an adult, that my so called tragedies have helped me to connect with others in a more meaningful, spiritual, and inspirational way. I feel God can use me to help others in dealing with tragedies in their own lives, whether it’s the death of a loved one they feel is unjust or unfair, or their own personal self-inflicted tragedy, such as the one I experienced with alcohol. Yes we disagreed, and honestly, it was minor and respectful, since the overall meeting went very well.
Here’s why I feel so strongly about this notion of God and plate business. When I look at myself objectively, or at least try to, here’s what I see. I see a 51 year old man who was born on a farm in Western Kansas, one of six children, and one of humble beginnings. I not only lost my mother in a tragic farm accident when I was 13, but witnessed it first-hand. I moved to California when I was 16 and finished high school, graduating in the top 10% of my class. I went on to get my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration when I was 23. I then embarked on a very successful career in banking for nearly 25 years afterward, earning the respect and admiration of my peers, all the while managing to get married, father and raise two children, several years by myself, and operate a 4,000 acre wheat operation at the same time. And then nearly dying, not once, but twice from seizures suffered from alcohol withdrawals. Spending 5 ½ months in a steel and concrete cage after catching my 3rd DUI in May 2008, 6 months in a house-arrest facility in Liberal, Kansas, followed by returning to where my life had spun out of control, where the big trouble had started, in Elkhart, Kansas. I felt I had to prove to God, myself, my family, and many others what I was truly made of. Completing an out-patient program in record time, being released from probation a year early, getting accepted into the University of California San Diego’s accelerated paralegal program, and completing it successfully. Leaving Kansas in mid-March of this year and returning to California, bringing only what I needed to start over; just the bare necessities that one needs to survive. But mostly I brought a huge heart, an intelligent mind, a gigantic will, and my soul. A soul that simply won’t give up on anyone or anything, including myself, and those that I love.
So, can I handle more? Can I handle the pressure of finding a job, my own place, taking care of my children again? Can I handle new relationships? A whole new life? You darn right I can. Never say never.
Next time you feel overwhelmed by your life, your family, your job, your finances, your whatever, look inside yourself and ask this question. How big is my plate? Is God giving me only what I can handle? Can I take it? Can I handle more? My belief is the answer is an emphatic yes. You never know what you’re capable of until you’re forced to. Your faith in God and faith in yourself; your heart, mind, and soul, will propel you to a life of enrichment, love, peace, and happiness that will astound you.