In order to create their beautiful plumage, peacocks sometimes eat thorns. Hard, pointed, razorlike objects are processed in their abdomens and then contribute to feathers with colors and shapes unmatched throughout nature for their extraordinary beauty. So it is with us.

Often, that which is the hardest to digest, to process, to integrate into our life experiences is what ultimately transforms us in a positive way. We become who we are meant to be sometimes by having to eat some hard-edged, bitter thorns of human experience. Who among us hasn't stumbled?

We failed at relationships, and then those failures propelled us to more deeply understand what relationships are for and how to master the art of loving. We grieved the loss of a loved one and then came through the experience more appreciative of every day we have with those we love. We lost at business and then looked back at the loss as the business education we obviously needed. We were betrayed and then experienced the incredible power of forgiveness. We made mistakes and then experienced God's mercy as we acknowledged, atoned for and made amends for them all. Anything and everything can be a platform for a miracle.

Sometimes it is our suffering that mysteriously delivers us to the holiness within ourselves. Having tasted that which is most bitter, we often taste that which is most sweet. Our hearts having been broken, they then can break open. The tiny light of hope that we glimpse in the midst of our suffering can become a light so bright that the immensity of its power seems second only to the depth of its tenderness. Having entered the regions of our personal hopelessness, we find at last where true hope lies. We come to understand more clearly who we are and why we are on the earth.

The most depressed periods of life can be initiations into our spiritual power, as we come to take an honest look at the deeper forces at play in our personal dramas. Such is the spiritual path, and it is indeed a hero's journey. The hero's name is your name and my name and everyone's name. It is the journey away from the ego's destructiveness, as we rise, however bloodied from the climb, to the emotional peak of nakedness before God, there to drop our masks and embrace our true selves. Of course it is painful to endure the death throes of the false self, that self-sabotaging enemy who, if allowed to, runs rampant through every corner of our lives. But as false parts of our personalities begin to die, the truth of who we are gets a chance, at last, to breathe. Every thought of fear, every behavioral pattern that is based on fear and every mask we wear that is filled with fear is hiding a light so bright within us that its gorgeousness exceeds the beauty of any beauty in the world.

And that is the ultimate deliverance from suffering—the realization that we can be better people because of it. The spiritual journey from emotional pain to inner peace entails a transformation of our personalities, from being someone weakened by suffering to someone honed by it. Yes, we must look at the darkness within ourselves, and forgive others for the darkness that we see within them, in order to experience the miracle of love that only forgiveness brings. Yet, in so doing, we emerge victorious. And within that light, endless miracles abound. For miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. We grow less imprisoned by our fears as we release them to thoughts of love. No longer in denial about our issues, we atone and learn to forgive ourselves. No longer blaming others, we are able to forgive them. We experience a cosmic re-parenting from which we grow, at last, into the adults we were meant to be. This is the greatest story, the story of all stories, and it is the story of every one of us.

Tears to Triumph This excerpt was taken from Tears to Triumph: The Spiritual Journey from Suffering to Enlightenment, by Marianne Williamson, reprinted with permission from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2016.


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