Sunday was a rarity in Northern Ireland. A hot, sunny day. We should have been out on the streets rejoicing, and many of us were. Apart from those who when they aren’t complaining about it being too cold, are complaining about it being too warm. It’s the nature of the beast. You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but when it comes to the weather there will always be those who have a permanent rain cloud over their heads.
I’m a bit like that and when I jumped into the car on Sunday lunchtime, it was no exception. Placing my hands on the steering wheel I discovered they were red hot from the sun’s rays. OUCH! It took several further ginger attempts before I felt comfortable enough to start the engine and proceed on my journey. But for the first mile or so, until the air conditioning kicked in and cooled down the interior of the vehicle, it was a decidedly unpleasant journey.
Heat. Flames. Fire. Pain. These are themes that I often visit in my creative writing. Indeed, I was working on a chapter yesterday where they featured prominently. Why are we so attracted to the flames of life when we know instinctively what the consequences are going to be? That train wreck of a relationship or friendship, just one more mouthful/drink/puff. When all the warning signs scream AVOID we stumble blithely onwards toward the cliff edge.
There are situations in our lives that are simply too hot to handle, like my fiery steering wheel from the other day. Yet we ignore the voice of reason screaming in our ears and embrace them with both hands. The temporary pleasure negates the nagging sensation that this will all end in tears and we will be picking up the pieces and licking our wounds for a long, long time. We are the architects of our own destruction. Time and time again.
I read a lot of blogs where folk have made bad decisions and are now repenting at their leisure. They are dealing with guilt, shame and a lack of self worth. They feel useless and broken, discarded by the wayside and left fumbling about in the dark, trying to rebuild what is left of their lives. Many talk of giving up, others have given up. The burns are too deep, the scars too visible. They have become pariahs, no longer able to look at themselves in the mirror.
I know this guilt. I’ve experienced this pain. I’ve grabbed the red hot steering wheel with both hands, gritted my teeth and careered into a brick wall at ridiculously high speed. I’ve sat dazed in the wreckage wondering where it all went wrong. My instincts overwhelmed the calm, rational voices in my life telling me to take my hands off the wheel, step out of the car and walk as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I thought I knew best. How wrong I was.
Let’s cut to the chase. I’ve learnt some lessons and earned my battle scars. Wisdom comes at a price, a sometimes terrible price, but when you accrue even a grain of it, cling on to it as if your life depended upon it. For one day it might. Not for nothing did Solomon offer up all the riches in the world for what he desired more than anything – wisdom. It is more precious than gold, worth more than all the tea in China. It is the key to a life worth living, the life you were meant to live.
If you’re perched in the driving seat as you read this, about to clasp the steering wheel and turn the ignition over, then please think again. Is it really worth it? Have you seriously thought through what you are letting yourself and those you love in for? Are you willing to live with the pain of those third degree burns for the rest of your life? You have a choice. It’s called freewill. Walk away. Now.