The first time I slipped on that jacket, I was walking right into a war zone.
Head held high, shoulders straightened, I made the choice to be fearless and forgiving. That jacket became a trophy for a day that I decided to be the bigger person.
Seasons changed, the jacket got packed away with other winter clothes and life continued on. I had forgotten it until the early fall when I pulled it out again. I shrugged it on, remembering how it helped me to stand in the worst days of the previous year.
I found myself lugging it around everywhere. Even if it was too warm to put it on, I kept it close. Over and over, I’d think about sitting in that cold room with fluorescent lights and white tile floors. I kept reminding myself that I have what it takes to choose the better path.
In the days that followed, my dreams were being forced to change, all my plans started failing. Doors I thought would always swing wide open started to close with a resounding smack.
I found myself drowning in anger. Standing in a parking lot on a breezy afternoon, the disappointment of slamming doors were a kick to a heart that had finally begun to hope again. Wearing that jacket suddenly felt heavy, I felt like I was going to crumble under the pressure it had put on my shoulders.
I didn’t know if I really had it in me to be better than all the things I wanted to scream in my anger. I really just wanted to take my fists and ram them into the person standing in front of me. I didn’t want to be the better person, I didn’t want to make the right choice. I just wanted some justice, I wanted some long awaited answers.
Just when I felt my temper hit its peak, I dug my clenched hands deep into the pockets of that jacket and I knew the war was over.
I wrapped my fingers around a little piece of cardboard in the left pocket and that was when I waved my white flag. I knew I never really wanted to be the kind of fighter whose weapons were bitterness, disappointment and rage from my pain.
There in that pocket was a coffee sleeve I’d crammed in there on a night in September. I told myself that every time my fingers grazed it, I’d remember to pray in the middle of hard things. I’d remember that God could make a way when there is no way. I told myself it would be the trophy of the new season, it would be the thing to remind me that not only could I be better, I could believe for better. I could believe that good things, really good things, were in front of me.
That jacket felt like a weight and the coffee sleeve became an anchor and I realized it is actually quite a heavy thing to decide to be the bigger person and to believe for better things. Many days you’ll be forced to go against everything you want and everything that makes sense. You’ll have to choose to live a way that looks pretty empty handed. Being that person sometimes causes you to lose friends and other times, it causes you to sacrifice yourself.
What it takes to be to the kind of person who can hold their head high, who has true class; a person who can leave a mark on the world, on a room with fluorescent lights, or in a parking lot on a breezy day is a person who knows the only wars ever won are the ones where the fighters chose love and bravery over the disappointment of the season.