Taking everything for granted.
It is synonymous with "ungrateful" and "unappreciative." Like the vicious predator it is, it lies in wait, and pounces at the opportune moment. We think we're above it, that we've escaped its deadly clutches. It's happy when we think that, for it is merely biding its time. And when it strikes, you can expect a fatality.
It seems to have a favorite target, and that's people. We live our lives under the optimistic illusion that our family and friends will stick around forever. It's not our reality. The fatal flaw lulls us into a slumber of security before unleashing the nightmare. And beating in the heart of that terror is a sad truth: family and friends don't . . . last . . . forever.
I'm not even just talking about death. Life happens. People move. Relationships get rocky. There's a host of reasons as to why others in our world ebb and flow like the tide. But what TobyMac sings in "Gone" is something that occurs all too often: "They say you never know what you got 'til it's gone."
Why people? Life is all about relationships. Humanity is hardwired to crave them. We could lose our job, home, money, or possessions, yet if we have people, we have hope and something to live for. Without others, everything else seems petty. Our vision morphs into a bleak gray, and our foe laughs at our despair.
I've been hit by the fatal flaw not once, not twice, but three times this year. It first attacked January 4th. I've probably mentioned this before, but I used to visit a site called the LEGO Message Boards. It was a place where LEGO lovers from all over the world could hang out, write stories, roleplay, et cetera. I considered it my digital home. Because I had next to no friends in "real life" (I really don't care for that term), the vast majority of my friendships were on the MBs. I have many fond memories of the people I knew there and the fun times we shared.
Things had already started spiraling in the summer of 2016. As I entered the workforce and then college in the fall, I was spending less time on the MBs. I had fallen prey to the assumption that the site would be awaiting my return next summer, and I wasted precious time on frivolous things.
The fateful day came knocking, and the floor was ripped out from under me. Never had the thought crossed my mind that my home-away-from-home would be taken away from me. I had until March 30th to make up for lost time, although the last month was without the ability to post. Time was not in my favor.
I now imagine it like I'm a sentry on a watchtower. I was pretty faithful for a long time--since fall of 2012. But then my eyes wandered, and when I finally looked back, a swarm of enemies was closing in. I had little time to prepare. Even now, the memory of it still stings.
Although I know you guys don't think so, there are some who might say that those weren't "real" friendships, because they were online. They sure as heck felt real to me. While interactions take place digitally, there are real people involved, and I think we need to see those times still have value. Yes, the relationships aren't the same as face-to-face ones, but it doesn't mean they don't matter or are unimportant.
Miniature rant aside, I was still reeling from the first blow when the second landed. I knew this one was coming, but that knowledge didn't lessen the impact. It was at the end of college, and I suspected that I would never--or rarely ever--see any of my classmates again. I have run into a few of them and emailed a couple others, but almost no lasting friendships have come out of my college year. Not yet, anyway.
To me, that's kinda disappointing. I had hoped the relationships developed would be longer lasting. We accomplished so much as a team. We spent so many hours together. The ending to it all feels anticlimactic, in some regards. Maybe my expectations were just too high, and I didn't see the reality of the whole situation. Regardless, what's done is done, and I can only hope I'll gain at least a few friends from that year.
Bearing the scar of the MBs and the lack of friendships from college, I began my new normal life. And before I knew it, the fatal flaw tricked me into thinking everything was okay. I had managed to connect with several of my MBs friends. There was nothing to worry about. It was as if I began to see myself as untouchable and forgot the lessons I'd learned. The sentry was distracted again, leaving himself open to another brutal assault from the enemy.
The third time was a double whammy. Part one happened on December 5th, when I discovered that LEGO was shutting down its galleries. I had wondered when it was going to happen, because it started feeling like a plant left unattended. But that meant I was possibly going to lose all contact with two of my closest friends. I was frustrated with myself for having wasted my time again.
Part two went straight for the heart. The sentry, while focused on his foes, received a dagger in the back. I've chatted with two of my best friends, whom I've "adopted" as sisters, on Google Hangouts since the MBs were closed. Last month, one of them seemed to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. I eventually started worrying, so I messaged her last Friday.
The next day, I got a response, one I had to read more than once. She was going off the internet . . . completely. No more Google Hangouts. No more social media. Just . . . gone. She claimed it wasn't personal, but how could I not feel like I was at fault? How could I be exempt from any guilt, questioning what I had or hadn't done?
The salt in the wound? She seemed colder . . . withdrawn . . . impersonal. Like our friendship hadn't mattered that much. I have no idea if that was her intention, but that was my perception. I was given virtually no details as to why she was disappearing.
It shook me up bad. Real bad. I was in a daze of heartache, a putrid blend of deep sorrow and concern with a side of frustration and guilt. How could she leave me at the drop of a hat, seemingly without a second thought or sounding like she cared? I wondered if I was the problem. I hadn't fully appreciated her friendship; I took it for granted.
In this moment, I recognized the terrible imperfection of man. And I began to despise it with a venomous loathing. I'm sick of the fatal flaw, the lunatic cycle, the wretched game!
Can I be real here? Even more real than I have been already? I know that God promises to never leave me, that He's got plans to prosper me, that He will turn all things good in the end. But with my jaded, mortal eyesight, I can't see the endgame from where I'm standing right now. I just want to see Him . . . feel Him . . . hear Him. Those feelings aren't everything, though, and I have to trust, in spite of them.
There are those who would accuse me of turning to the internet to vent about my "Year of the Fatal Flaw" and get attention and pity. But as much as this is a raw, brutally honest rant (and trust me, it's been cathartic for me), it's not just about me. It's about all of us. It's a warning and a reminder.
I implore you, stop undervaluing the important people in your life. The idea that you'll always have them on this side of heaven is cute, but it's like a mirage in the desert: it never lasts, no matter how much you want it to.
2017 has certainly taught me a lot about one of our most vile flaws. A lesson, however, is no good if you don't take something away and put it into practice. You'll soon forget it and will have to learn it again, and again, and again. As Mr. Nezzer's grandma says in An Easter Carol, "A lesson learned is soon returned. A lesson lived is wisdom gived." (Bad grammar, yes, but that doesn't make it a moot point.)
I have determined I need to change my subconscious attitude. I'm done with being unappreciative of and ungrateful for my family and friends. Look what it's brought me! Nothing but regret and pain. I would never wish upon anyone what I've dealt with this past year.
No, in order to change, I have to make a conscious step in the right direction. I want to show my loved ones that I care about them, that I'm thankful for them, that they mean the world to me. One of the best ways to do that is to discover which of the five love languages--quality time, physical touch, gifts, words, and acts of service--is theirs, then use it on them. Online relationships might need a bit of creativity, but it's not impossible.
In a perfect world, doing this would be easy and have amazing results, where no one leaves and I would never be hurt again. But the world isn't perfect. Doing this will be hard at times. Results won't always be the best. People will still leave. I will have no choice but to tangle with the crushing hurt.
Despite all this, I cling with war-torn, bloodied hands to a steadfast belief.
Wounds can be healed.
Blows can be softened.
Souls can be mended.
Because I have an eternal Friend in my corner, who gives me the strength to keep fighting and the hope to get back on my feet.
Because Jesus is mightier than the fatal flaw.
"I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order." (John 16:33, The Voice)