INESCAPABLE INTRUDERS

The first cries of a new born baby pronounce him/her having ‘passed’ the examination of healthy normalcy. Wow!! What an age to begin appearing for exams!! Poor little infant doesn’t even know that the series of examinations has only just begun!

And from then on, no shying away from appearing for the exams that life doles out at various stages in myriad ways!

When I was preparing for the Indian Civil Service examination, the enormity of the syllabus overwhelmed me. The prescribed syllabus was just a pointer to practically everything under the sun. That’s why there goes a common expansion to the acronym UPSC as Un-Predictable Service Commission 🙂 (it’s actual expansion is Union Public Service Commission). The syllabus is unpredictable, the questions are unpredictable and the result is the most unpredictable of all!! But, still lakhs of aspirants from all over India slog to compete for this exam each year and many don’t quit till the last attempt is over.

Unlike educational exams, the tests of life are not choices that we tend to make voluntarily. Life’s examinations are the results of permutations and combinations that we find ourselves a part of. No matter how challenging or alarming, the tests of life are elusive to none. The interesting outcome of life’s examinations is that one still proceeds on to the next stage of life irrespective of the result. So you see, unlike career examinations, success and/ or failure cannot and do not stop life from moving ahead. But yes, they do impact how life moves ahead.

Who is the Examiner?

Though it might be tempting to believe that God conducts all of life’s examinations and He is the one who would give us the certificates with the remarks ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, ‘well done’ or ‘you need to work harder’, it is not true. To give an example, a person driving on the highway sees the wide smooth road ahead and seeing no sight of man or vehicle decides to accelerate the speed beyond the limits. In no time there appears a vehicle from the opposite direction and baaaaanggg – both vehicles collide!!! The driver gets arrested for overspeeding, has to pay a hefty penalty and his driving license is suspended for a three months. To conclude that God put this driver through a tough examination is absurd.

There are many such struggles in our lives which we drag ourselves into either because of our faulty thinking and decision making or at the behest and provocation of others. Though God does not lead us into such wrestling matches, He sure is the Shepherd to steer us out into pleasant pastures if we admit our folly and choose to seek His help. (God never imposes His help on anybody)

However, there are some other examinations that God in His wisdom allows in our lives. They may be the likes of sickness, unemployment, difficult marriages, childlessness, an intolerable boss, job posting away from home, special needs children, poverty, affluence (yes, even prosperity and affluence test us) and many such ordeals over which we seem to have no say. There can be three human responses to these rough winds that blow on our faces.

  1. To curse God and lose faith in Him.
  2. To take things in our own stride
  3. To surrender to His will and seek His intervention.

When we choose to respond in the first way, i.e., blame God for our difficulties and turn away from Him, it fills our lives with bitterness and self-pity, creates inroads for addictions and sicknesses and ultimately drives us into self-destruction. Life goes on, but with emptiness.

When we take things in our own stride without blaming God but not wanting His assistance to tide over the rough patches either, we tend to lose time and efforts in trial and error strategies – going round and round weighing the options and thinking of probable correct answers and sometimes even failing to hit at the solution.

However when we rely on God and seek His intervention, He does the impossible in our lives. Yes, the impossible! Or miracles, if you would like to think that way. Test Him on this if you will and you will know for yourself.

I remember reading about a God-fearing affluent person who lost a majority of his wealth in one day. To add to his misfortune, the roof collapsed and killed all his children while they were partying at a venue. In course of time, he developed a kind of incurable skin ailment which filled his body with sores and stinking pus. Even when his wife smirked at his foolishness for holding on to his faith in God in spite of all the struggles that they have had to go through, he did not let go of God. Things continued that way for a long time, after which gradually God blessed him and restored his health, wealth and blessed him with children to fill the void in his household.

Not all events of seeking God’s intervention in life’s examinations result in such tangible successes, however. At times, struggles go upto the very last breath with alternating jostling episodes of leaning towards God and withdrawing from Him in utter frustration and helplessness. In such times, the deliverance from such continuous phases of examination can be experienced only in eternity.

If you are going through a bitter life trial which you find difficult to endure or escape from, I entreat you to put your faith in God and see the difference for yourself.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

EXAM! HOW TO DEAL WITH IT?

Every evening while on my way back from the office, I always see a cute little girl with her Dad at the bus stop. Every time, the girl will be holding a chips packet in her left hand and her Dad’s finger in her right hand. Her Dad will be holding her big schoolbag and waiting to get a taxi or bus. The girl looks happy, feeling very safe and relaxed from studies, she appears to be in her own world and talking something non-stop. And usually, her Dad’s response was “yea…yea. Yes… okay… good”, keeping her busy in her imaginative world. Meanwhile, most of the time I used to be on call with my cousin explaining her the moves of this cute girl and the beauty of her cute little fancy frock. I just love that scene. Every time our talk about that girl used to end with one wish – “Wish we could time travel to our school days & make a permanent stay there. There will be no rigorous life exams, no worries, no heart-aches only eat – study – sleep and play. What a blissful moment, we lived!” As I resonate with my present feelings looking at that schoolgirl, it reminds me of what I was thinking in my past looking at an adult. I used to think – “When shall I become a grown-up man, there will no exam pressure, absolute freedom to roam anywhere I want and enjoy life to the fullness.

One among the greatest urge of every human mind is,

“Life would be filled with comforts & the availability of Easy-go for Prosperity”.

There was a rich man having a big business empire, in his entire career he always malpractice for success. In fact, he was so shrewd and skillful in malpractice in his life that never ever any of his teachers were able to catch him red-hand. Finally, he becomes one of the most recognized successful businessmen in his city. To celebrate and showcase his luxury, one-day he invited his school friends and the school teacher for a dinner party at his home. As the party began, he started boasting about his cunning ideas to success and the final point of his boastful talk was – “There is nothing wrong to cheat and succeed in life. Since life is a competition, cheating to succeed is always welcome. As a matter of fact, ‘cheating is a skill’.” After his talk, his school teacher said, since all your school batch mates are here, let me test your intelligence. If you pass, then I will agree with your statement. Someway, the billion-dollar businessman was able to cheat and succeed again. The businessman criticized his school teacher publicly. As the feast was over, the school teacher made a personal request to the businessman asking him how did he manage to cheat everyone in the test. The businessman took the teacher into his bedroom and explained his cheating tactics. As he finished boasting on his cheating tactics, immediately the toilet door opened and his 10-year old son came-out and looked at his father with a cheeky smile. Tears dropped from the billion-dollar businessman’s eye and both the teacher and the son departed from the room.

Despite the veracity, voracity & the variety of examinations from the classroom desk to the real-life, it cannot be denied that examinations always trigger intense mental and emotional pressure (sometimes resulting in physical pain) and an immense amount of challenges in life. In order to get rid of the clutches of pressure and for the easy-go for success, we tend to take short-cuts in life. In concern to it, renowned Christian author Ravi Zacharias tweets,

The shortest route is not always the best route,

because often times it can bypass life’s most important lesson.

In examinations, short-cuts/shortest routes to success demand breaching of the ethical and moral boundaries in life. India Today research says, more than 52% of men and women between 25-50 age living in metros consider copulation with higher authorities is a shortcut to professional success and it’s okay. Well, some of our Bollywood movies (ref: Corporate, 2006) have accurately presented the consequence of the use of such strategies from all angles of life.

The Bible says,

“Wise lives among many counselors and he listens to them whereas the fool rejects counsels, his ways are right in his eyes. The wise fear the LORD and shun evil.”

Furthermore, the depth of knowledge and the timely implementation of knowledge decides who is wise. Since God understands the finitude of the human mind and the need for knowledge during the time of the test alongside our hard and honest work for success, He (The God in the Bible) has promised us –

“Ask Me and I will give Wisdom, Knowledge & Understanding. I will give you Wisdom and from My mouth flows Knowledge and Understanding.”

Featured Image source: The New Yorker Post, EICHMANN IN JERUSALEM-1

DO ALL TRANSITIONS END UP IN A POSITIVE NOTE?

We had a great week discussing on crossing the transition periods and coming out victorious.

But when I was thinking what to write on my ‘Final Note,’ I was unable to come to the conclusion that all the transitions has a good or positive out come in our lives. 

When I look back in my life I find few incidents that will clarify what I am talking about…

In 2001 I was admitted in Manipal Heart Foundation, Bangalore for my second surgery. There’s one 19 years old guy with me in my ward for surgery too. Both went through the difficult transition of heart surgery. I came out alive. He couldn’t.

In 2010-11, both my cousins met severe road accidents. Both were very painful and difficult transitions for all of us in the family. My cousin sister survived but my cousin brother didn’t.

We pray for many people who are suffering with terminal diseases. Some survive and some don’t.  

I struggle with the thought why there’s a disparity? Why there’re different situations? Why God listens to one and doesn’t for the other? Why there’s no dawn after some dark nights? All these questions really made me sad till I remembered these words of wisdom as under:

“There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

     a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
     a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
     a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
     a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
     a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
     a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

 What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.”

My uncle says we humans are spiritual beings… we are spirits and spirits live for eternity. So being eternal our ends are impossible whether we land up in heaven or hell.

Why did I say about this suddenly here? I said it because I wanted to stress on the fact  that we have purpose after this earth also. There’s always a purpose behind something that happens in our life. Even death is a transition after crossing it there’s life as we are ever living beings. I know we are really unable to understand certain things at certain point of time, because no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” But I remember what Khristina said yesterday, Don’t be distracted – submit to God’s plan for you when things are not going on your way… when you think you are going through a phase… when you are thinking its just a transition period for you…

Change is inevitable. But it is important how we react to it.

Friends, are you going through difficult times? Are you going through a mind boggling change in your life? Take heart, submit everything in God’s hand. It’s just a passing transition…

Stay Blessed!!!

TURBULENT TIMES AND THE SPARK OF SUCCESS

“Sweet are the uses of adversity

Which, like a toad ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in its head;”

William Shakespeare, through the mouth of Duke Senior, in his famous play, As You likes It, Act 2 Scene 1.

Yes, you are right!……the same old words. Your eyes and ears must have passed these words several times in your career, although William Shakespeare wrote them way back in 1599, and not until 1623 did it make its public debut. Some of us have even read it as part of our English curriculum in School. Two days back, when the very same words, crossed my eyes, for the umpteenth time though, in a newspaper column, it forced me to rethink its meaning in new light. Turbulent times, if endured are definitely the gateway to success.

World renowned American Author and Motivational Speaker, Og Mandino, once said, “Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes after many struggles and countless defeats.” There was a phase in my surgical career, wherein every Suprapubic Prostatectomy, i.e. Surgery to remove enlarged Prostate Gland , that I did was ending up with bleeding and eventually getting re-opened. It was just not happening for me. I wasn’t sure whether it was wrong technique that was causing this or poor assisting by my surgical assistants or a combination of both. Slowly a sense of fear crept in and it forced me to avoid doing Prostatectomies anymore. 

I could not sleep at night because doubts about ability and technique crept in pretty quickly. I called my Boss, to watch over me while I operate in order to catch any wrong steps, but alas! None existed. It led us to go back to our books and resources on the net and after exhaustive reading we made some procedural changes. Its been 4 years since that epochal day and not a single Prostatectomy patient has bled. Those procedural changes have become very popular among many surgery specialists. Had my patients not bled a better procedure would never have evolved.

The other day watching an interview of World famous, Skier and Olympic Gold Medalist, Jean-Claude Kelly nailed the idea completely. While skiing, some of the most treacherous runs on Earth, something remarkable happened with him. Out of the razor’s edge, where he felt his greatest discomfort wherein his limiting beliefs started to scream through his brains and tell him that he would never make it down, it was at that opportune moment that he felt the most alive.

He said, “The fear you move through when you go to the edge of your limits actually causes your limits to expand.” This is true not only of Skiing but life as well. That expansion leads to not only better work but greater performance. As Nietzsche said:  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 

Most people hide in their shells when the going gets rough. They retreat into their bunkers. They push away anything that’s pulls them the least bit out of their comfort zone. And sadly, in so doing, they push away their chances for growth, mastery and lasting achievements. The brave don’t run. The brave eat their fear before their fear eats them.

If that’s not enough, deep change is a purifier of sorts. Yes, it can tear down the very foundations on which your thinking and way of operating have been built. But just maybe those old foundations need to come down to create space for even better ones to be installed. And during the transition process that lies between the old structures coming down and the new ones being put up in place, it’s a real stress filled, uncertain time. But just maybe it’s like the transition of the Caterpillar morphing into the Butterfly. It looks like a mess but something beautiful is being created. As Novelist Richard Bach, once famously said, “What the Caterpillar calls the end of the World, the Master calls the Butterfly.”

Author’s Bio: Dr. Anupam Dey is a General Surgeon in a Mission Hospital at BISSAMCUTTACK, ODISHA. He is a thinker and a thought provoking writer.