Lessons From The Gods
Author: Sinister Ang
The Gods have many things to teach us. This has become abundantly clear throughout my years of learning as I studied my Pagan path, forging my personal relationships with deity. Some of these lessons have been small, something learned through a dream or through some intuition that cannot be described in words. Other lessons have been far more concrete.
I follow a Norse path, which probably has no relevance to the way in which the divine chooses to make their wants and needs known. To each his own, and while I’m still unsure as to who orchestrated the most recent of the lessons I needed to learn, I have no question in my mind that it was indeed the divine attempting to show me something I need to know. While I think the gods usually take a more objective interest in the day-to-day affairs of humans, sometimes in order to instill a particular point or lesson in their followers, they need to be more hands-on. Christians may call these “miracles” or “seeing the light, ” but for most Pagans, these come as no surprise; the Gods truly do work in mysterious ways, until we figure out their reasons. Take, for instance, my most recent brush with divinity.
As I walked down the stairs outside my house one day, talking over my shoulder to my husband on my way to feed the dog, impatient about getting home late from work and wanting to get to the many chores that needed to be done before bed, I stepped onto one of the loose, springy boards that make up the deck outside my house. This was, in itself, not an unusual occurrence, but this particular step decided to dump my ungrateful posterior unceremoniously to the ground, and when this happened, I twisted my ankle around. By the time I had landed, on my back and staring up into the darkening sky, my ankle was throbbing in pain and my concerned spouse was standing over me, asking if I was all right. I tried to roll over, and more pain shot through the leg and foot, and the ankle had already swollen to twice its normal width.
My husband helped me up and back into the house, put ice on the ankle, and ran off to tell my sister and father, who live next door, that we would need them to watch the children while he ran me into the hospital to have the leg checked. My five-year-old stood watch over me as I waited for him to return, asking me why I was crying in that way that five-year-olds do, and reassured me that I was going to be okay. (Yes, my daughter was trying to make ME, the mother, feel better. I fully understand the humorous implications in this!)
To make a long story short, after a drive to the hospital emergency room and an hour’s worth of X-rays and bracing the leg, it was decided that I had sprained the ankle, and broken one of the bones in my little toe, for which I would eventually be outfitted with a CAM-walker boot. At least it wasn’t a broken ankle, as I had originally feared, but it did put a hindrance on my ability to perform many of my daily household tasks. I discovered the joys (or disgust, depending on point of view) of using crutches, and was nearly confined to bed for a week before returning to work part time and eventually full time.
What lesson was I meant to learn in this? The gods wished for me to learn patience, to step away from the hum-drum of my daily life and breathe, to stop and smell the roses, and to realize that the world will not stop turning if I am not there to see to its every need. It took me several days curled up in bed in the blissful embrace of painkillers to realize that there was any lesson whatsoever to be learned from the experience, and many more still to learn what it was. Even then, I couldn’t for the life of me determine just why there was a lesson to be learned in the first place. The answer, it seems, took a few more weeks to fully sink in.
I was back to work when a call from home reminded me that some things are more important than paychecks. My daughter, the five-year-old previously mentioned, had acted up in school and needed to be picked up so she wouldn’t cause any harm to herself or her classmates. A meeting with her principal and talking to a few specialists and other parents led me to the conclusion that my daughter was dealing with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The more I read, the more I realized that if my husband and I were going to get through this with our daughter, we were going to need to be patient and firm with her, set guidelines and schedules to keep her from acting out and causing a disturbance with her classmates.
While we still await a full diagnosis of my daughter’s social and behavioral issues, we understand that patience will be key to dealing with it, and it becomes obvious to myself that the gods knew that I would require the lessons in patience so that I would be better prepared to deal with my overly-active daughter. Would I have been as prepared without the lesson? Perhaps, but I also have enough faith and trust in the gods to know that they are far more knowledgeable than I am about these things, and if they thought I needed the extra boost, they were fully justified in giving it to me.
Not all lessons from the gods come this way, but many do. We’ve all known someone who lost a loved one and learned that heartbreak doesn’t last forever, or someone who lost a job and had to learn the valuable lesson that money isn’t everything. Perhaps it wasn’t a friend, but you, as the reader, who has had some kind of lesson given to you in the past that taught you something very valuable about yourself and the world you live in. Many times we do not recognize these teachings for what they are at the time, but only after reflecting on the events in ones past do we truly recognize the god’s teachings. We can call them life experiences or trials or whatever else we wish, but truly they are important lessons from our gods that we need to learn in order to reach our full potential and be truly happy. Some are harder lessons to learn than others, and if we don’t learn the first time, deity may find it necessary to teach the lesson again, or for longer than originally intended. What matters is that we learn from it, and grow spiritually and emotionally from the experiences given to us.
Like many Pagans today, I was drawn here by another personal experience meant to teach me a lesson: the death of a close loved one. My mother’s death rocked me, made me question what I hoped to get out of religion, and I finally understood that it wasn’t what I was currently getting. I spent years shopping around, joining the campus Christian coalition in an effort to find the kind of religious experience that I hoped and longed for, a personal connection to deity that was lacking, a sign that there truly was some divine being out there who had a personal interest in the pain I was going through. Much to my own surprise, my solace came when I sat beneath the trees of the amphitheater at the college I was attending, when I listened to the rush of the river nearby and listened to the birds chirping in the trees. It took losing my mother to find Paganism, a personal connection to the very real driving present in all of nature. Without that not-so-subtle push, I would probably have never seen the forest for the trees, would have blindly flailed through life with a spirituality that didn’t make sense to me and offered nothing back. Again, another painful lesson, but one I needed to learn to get to the point I am today, of truly feeling harmony with the world around me and the creatures in it.
The lessons that I have learned, while exclusive to me, are echoed around the world with other Pagans, with people of every religion, every day. They come in all shapes and sizes, these lessons, and have since the dawn of time. For every action, a reaction. It’s not just a law of physics anymore.
I truly hope that I have learned patience from this most recent experience, of having to have others do things for me that I could no longer do myself, of having to slow down and think about each step, to think about what I was doing and where I was going. My sincerest wish is to implement their teachings in my daily life, and to not get worked up over things I cannot change, to go with the flow and take things in stride, as they come.
Because I really hope they don’t decide to break the other foot if I haven’t.