Nothing's ever wasted...
Life in all its fullness matters. Heather Skull reflects on why everything happens for a purpose...
‘Hello, it’s Heather Skull from the press office. Skull. Yes. S-K-U-L-L’
Generally these days I find people are too polite to ask the question that probably goes through their mind: ‘Where on earth does the name Skull come from and how did she end up with it?’
Truth is that no-one quite knows where the name Skull did come from. There’s several branches of the family – some from Yorkshire, some from Wiltshire, some spelt with a ‘k’, some with a ‘c’ but all part of the same family. So. Sorry, I still can’t answer the question.
There’s something that the Skull clan is renowned for, particularly in my part of the family tree: hoarding things. My late grandfather was notorious for rescuing things out of the bin that my grandmother had put there. All our lofts are full of stuff that we can’t bear to get rid of. But more importantly, we ALL hold onto those things that might possibly come in useful one day.
I’m slightly better than I was about this because recycling facilities mean less of a guilt trip about where all my rubbish ends up. But I am still guilty of holding onto bits of old cameras and computers and leads and spare bits of cable because one day I am convinced I will need them and they will come in useful.
On that day of course it’s more than likely I won’t be able to find them and will have to buy a new cable or computer lead anyway. But the principle remains, that all these things in a box will one day come in useful.
My Dad who is probably responsible for me being like this keeps all sorts of pots with things in it because they will come in useful. Annoyingly, they often do. If I ask the question, “Dad, have you got something that will….” he inevitably has.
Many years ago he rescued a small piece of paxolin (go on, Google it, you know you want to) about an inch square which he kept for many years because ‘it might come in useful’.
In 1982 when he and I were building a railway in the loft, we needed a small piece of board to mount an electrical switch on. Dad, of course, had just the thing. A piece of board waiting for its moment to go from being rubbish to being recycled into something valuable. My mother was in slight despair though: “That’ll be his justification for keeping everything from here on in,” she remarked.
My grandmother was philosophical about Grandad’s tendency to say that nothing should ever be thrown away because it could still have a use. And in fact it spilled over into her faith. Grandma was one of those people whose faith was a natural part of who she was and what she did. And as a sceptical 18 year old I was silenced by her words when she told me quietly, but confidently, “Nothing is ever wasted. And everything happens for a reason.”
On the train a few mornings ago, I was thinking about the number of people that I know who are in the middle of painful and challenging experiences. And I found myself questioning, not for the first time, how these situations could ever have something good come out of them. How can these things happen for a reason?
Two years ago this week, I began writing my blog. I wrote the first one in the middle of a challenging and painful time – the scar is still not quite healed and still easily ripped open. But in it I talked about how we could better appreciate the delicate and multiple colours of the sunrise if we had first experienced the darkness of the previous night. (https://tractorgirl66.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/nobody-said-it-would-be-easy)
Life in all its fullness
Liz Dumain, one of the wisest people I know, once said that when Jesus talks about living life to the full, it means just that. It means the sad stuff as well as the stuff that makes us bound around wanting to punch the air with glee.
Life in its glorious and dizzying heights and in its depths of despair. How else can we know what it means to be a human fully alive? I’d hesitate to say to any of my suffering friends that this matters but I would still choose to rather live a full-life than flat-lining.
Real experiences make real people. Imagine the kind of people we would be if nothing bad ever happened to us. I’m not sure I can go along with the apostle James who writes in his letter in the New Testament that we should count it all joy when we go through difficult times, but I do see that trials and tricky points are character building.
Paul – another apostle – who knew what it was to experience recurring emotional pain which he called his thorn in the flesh, said pain produces endurance, endurance character and character hope. Hope. A small word but a massive and sustaining promise.
Sometimes unexpectedly good things come out of bad moments. The painful experience of two years ago led me to start writing this Tractor Girl blog. The writings of someone trying to make sense of Stuff Life Brings. Through it, I’ve rediscovered a love of writing that I didn’t know I had. And suddenly, Grandma’s words ring true: Nothing’s wasted. And everything happens for a reason.
What these painful scars and experiences also do – I believe – is give us an authority we wouldn’t otherwise have.
Authority and real empathy to be alongside those who also hurt so we can say ‘I know how you feel,’ and mean it sincerely. Because we really, really do.
While shared pain still hurts, it hurts slightly less when you can share it with someone who will weep with you because they know exactly how it feels like to want the world to go away for a while.
It’s the reason people of faith believe the presence of God is more keenly felt in the shadow than the sunlight.
A few hours later after musing all these things, I received a text from one of my friends, a person who experiences their own particular suffering and who I’ve tried to support. I’ve often felt helpless in the face of their difficulties and challenges, wanting to help and not knowing how to.
It makes me wish I could call in the grownups to tell us it’ll all be better in the morning, before I remember that I am now the grownup and I’ve got no idea when or even if, it will ever be better.
The text said just five words. And suddenly I can see my much-loved and much-missed Grandma smiling at me as I begin to get just a tiny glimpse of why none of my own personal painful experiences have been wasted.
‘Thanks mate. You always understand.’
Recycling icons image: digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net
Heather Skull is a former BBC Radio Wiltshire journalist and a member of Trowbridge Baptist Church. She blogs at tractorgirl66.wordpress.com, where this article first appeared