The Things You Didn't Choose

By Jarom Petrich

The past can be a cauldron
of the most destructive brew,
Like a vice it grips the future
of those who boil and stew.

For he who lets the injuries
of things now long forgot
by those who did the hurting
is the one who’s in the pot.

And no amount of boiling
in a bath of hate and heat
can heal a wound or broken heart
or make its bitter sweet.

The heart’s not just a muscle
that pumps all day and night;
it will also harbor memories
of things that weren’t right.

But unlike the other muscles
that grow harder when they're stronger,
a hardened heart holds little joy,
and makes its owner suffer longer.

Painful slights and grave injustices
are carried there by choice.
Why grant such precious lodging
to another's hands or voice?

Far better to forgive the hurt
and walk within their shoes.
Compassion comes from treading long
the roads you didn’t choose.

The greatest gifts will often hide
down paths you’d never gladly trod,
so you would surely miss them
if not guided there by God.

Who would crown themselves with sorrow
burdened down by heavy cross?
Or in sleepless darkness swallow
the bitter agonies of loss?

But each strange pair of sandals
That you swap out for your own,
will guide your feet more fully
down the path that leads back home

For a cold and empty honor
is the one that isn’t earned,
and fleeting is the knowledge found
that isn’t deeply learned.

The deep scars give perspective
changing the way you see;
they make you so much more
than the unscarred you could be.

While those who dodge the punches
will froth with angst and ire,
they fail to learn this simple truth:
What purifies is fire.

The black eyes life will give you,
though they will swell and bruise,
can help you see the purpose
in the fights you didn’t choose.

And countless souls fall down deep holes
and come up short of finding
the answer to this riddle old:
Oh, why the constant grinding?

For though you may not relish
all the things you must endure,
the furnace of affliction
is what makes your metal pure.

Truth and strength and happiness,
and all things that are good,
Are the counterweights you forge there
through tears and sweat and blood.

For life to grant you knowledge
of the things you highly cherish,
the dross and blemish from your soul
must be allowed to perish.

The more you live the more you’ll learn
that pain in equal measure
to the heights of joy you reach in life
is half of life's great treasure.

Yes, occasion might permit you
time to feel the sun and rest,
but only sunny days and restful nights
make for a lousy test.

It’s your attitude that sets your course
and courage win or lose,
that will paint your life's great portrait
from the things you didn't choose.

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