Negotiating the Narrow Spots

Last night was the Lenten Retreat at my parish, Christ the King in Minneapolis. Our speaker was Ruth Bachman, an inspirational speaker who shared the lessons she has learned about change and growth. A 2003 cancer diagnosis that forced the amputation of her (dominant) left hand and lower arm led her to her current vocation of talking to people about how to encounter change in times of crises and plenty.

Her starting point is the reality that change is inevitable and that often change is challenging.

She uses a useful image in her talk – that of an hourglass. The narrow spot in the hour glass is the crisis or disaster or some more minor event that changes something for us. We can’t control or choose what those narrow spots will be, but we all face them. And they change who and what we are. She observes

If cancer is the narrow spot in the hourglass, and I am the sand, then I have traveled from the top, through the tight spot, to the bottom. I am the same sand — but with a different arrangement.

We don’t choose the narrow spots. We can, however, choose how we respond to them. And that ultimately it her message – our need to approach each narrow spot with grace and faith, making decisions based on reality, not on anticipation and fear. (She describes fear as False Expectations Appearing Real.) That requires the support of others. And it requires an openness to God.

Bachman’s talk invites us to spend some time reflecting on some of the narrow spots we’ve experienced in our own lives. Did we view them as catastrophes or as invitations to growth? Were we open to the presence of God as we traveled through the narrow spot? What might have helped us to respond with greater patience, persistence and grace?

You can read more about Ruth Bachman and her vocation here.

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