The Beautiful Struggle

This past weekend, I took some time to do something for myself – I went and got a new tattoo, one that I have been thinking about for a long time and one that means a lot to me. I had done a lot of research about the meaning and significance of the lotus flower, and what I discovered was the most beautiful concept I had ever encountered. The lotus flower only flourishes in muddy water. The muddier the water, the more beautiful the flower. In Buddhism, the lotus flower represents strength and rebirth from struggle. The mud represents the suffering humanity encounters in this life. The imagery of beauty emerging from suffering is at the very heart of life’s journey. And, at this stage in my life journey, nothing seemed more fitting or timely that this sacred piece of artwork.

The last four years or so have been the hardest years I have ever experienced. I was at a job where I worked too many hours and lived at a level of stress and strain that no human being ought to live. There was very little peace in my life at that time, so I sought it in places that, ultimately, brought me more pain. People walked away from me that I never would have predicated would do so. So-called friends chose their own selfish desires at the expense of our friendship, and thus forced me to step away from what were no longer meaningful and healthy relationships. One of my closest and dearest friends committed suicide following a very messy and painful heartbreak from his fiancée at the time. When that happened, a darkness fell over my life that I could not find my way out of for almost six months. But, when the darkness started to lift, when light was finally able to penetrate the darkness, a better version of me emerged. The “mud” of that experience was the beginning of my rebirth. The truth is, who I am and who I am becoming are the result of all the painful and challenging experiences in my life journey so far – heartache and heartbreak, disappointment and failure, dreams dismissed and dreams deferred. The strongest parts of who I am now are the direct result of the pain and struggles that I have encountered in life so far. I AM THE LOTUS FLOWER. This piece of art permanently affixed to my body is ME. The significance and sacred nature of this flower of deep purples and magentas is reflective of the woman I have become and am becoming. I never realized how profound and special it would be to me until I took full inventory of my life and understood that every single challenge, every obstacle, every struggle God has brought me through, has molded and matured me into the woman I am now. I am smarter, stronger, wiser, and calmer in many ways because the very things that could have destroyed me, could have ruined me, have instead made me better.

Painters often named their pieces. This lotus flower and music notes is called The Beautiful Struggle. The first time I heard that phrase was when a friend of mine introduced me to Talib Kweli’s album of the same title. It embodied the same principle as the lotus flower – beauty is birthed from suffering. When I look at this flower emblazoned on my side, I will be reminded that the parts of me that are most beautiful were birthed out of my greatest struggles, my darkest nights, and my deepest heartaches. I may not have been thankful for them in the going through, but I wouldn’t trade the lessons I have learned about life, about myself, or about Christ in my life for anything in the world. This is my story – I AM THE LOTUS FLOWER