I read recently that change is just a case of managing or avoiding triggers. This might work if you have an addiction to Dairy Milk, (avoid supermarkets, TV and birthdays). It’s more of a problem if those triggers are outside your control. Things that are or have been done to you. Seasons. Sickness. LIFE.
Here’s some things that either I or people I know find triggering;
Expectations from others
Lack of sleep
Having a child
Not having a child
Bullying at school or work
So how do I cope? Organise life so that I avoid all these things? Tempting. But impossible. And I may just shrink my world to nothing in the attempt.
I’d cocoon myself in safety and comfort. But the truth is, I can’t.
We live in a spiky world that bristles with triggers. It’s unyielding and it’s painful. Genesis 3:18 puts it like this: ‘the earth will produce thorns and thistles for you’. There’s just no way around it. Not by being ‘more in control’, not by ‘trying harder’, not by ‘focusing on the positive’, or ‘getting a better work-life balance’. When we try to live a thorn-free life we only end up shrinking back from the world we are called to cultivate and to bless. And the piercings, when they come, feel all the more outrageous because this is not meant to happen.
There are certainly occasions where avoiding triggers is absolutely the right thing to do. Temptations to sin spring to mind immediately. There are also ‘triggering’ situations regarding memories of past abuse. Together with friends/pastors/counsellors we should be wise about how to handle those areas. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Here I’m talking about the temptation to micro-manage my life in order to avoid all conflict or pain. When that becomes my goal, I become a slave to fear.
In this context we should ask ourselves, What if setting off our triggers isn’t the worse thing? What if the worst thing is trying not to – and living so small that we miss out on the relationship we were created for? What if there’s something bigger than the thorns? A Lord who calls us to Himself in the midst of trial and temptation? A life He beckons us towards that is bigger than pain management?
We are not called to a life of tranquility but something much richer, and more painful. Life in all its fullness. Life we can’t control.