Or into a tree like Daphne, when she was pursued by Apollo.
The great warrior Apollo mocked Eros (the Greek god of love) for handling a bow and arrows. “What have you to do with warlike weapons, boy?” Apollo asked. “Leave them for hands worthy of them.”
Angered, Eros drew two arrows—one of gold that would make the victim fall in love with the next person they saw, and one of lead that would instead inspire hatred. Eros shot Apollo with the golden arrow and the beautiful nymph Daphne with the lead arrow.
Apollo fell madly in love with Daphne, and she fled from him in fear and disgust. Apollo chased her.
But more than just her hatred of Apollo spurred Daphne to run as fast as she could. Throughout her life, Daphne chose to explore the woods over giving in to the advances of the many men who wanted her. She longed to guard her virginity and stay unmarried like Apollo’s sister had.
She stood to lose everything if Apollo caught her. And he was gaining on her.
Daphne called out to her father for help, and he turned her into a bay laurel tree. Her skin changed to bark and her hair into leaves, and her arms sprouted out into branches.
Daphne was safe from Apollo and from all the other potential lovers who might have stolen her virginity against her will.
That’s the power I wish I had. To turn people into something else so I could protect them from hurt and from harm.
Lately people all around me seem to be hurting. They’ve lost their job or can’t get the job they’ve always wanted. Their children are sick, or their marriages are ending. My grandparents are struggling to adjust to losing their independence and having to leave their home. My former neighbor’s son died in a head-on collision a week before his wedding.
It’s difficult to see so many people in pain.
And yet, I wonder. If I could protect them all from anything that would harm them, would that actually be for the best?
Daphne was safe, but she was also stuck as a tree forever. She couldn’t explore the woods anymore or take part in the woodland sports she loved. She couldn’t grow as a person. She couldn’t change her mind about what she wanted from her life.
Was safety worth what she lost to gain it?
What if the trials and the pain are what turns us into the people we’re supposed to be and gets us to the place we need to be?
Blogger and fantasy writer Tameri Etherton recently wrote a beautiful post about how her failed marriage in England and the guy in a band who broke her heart and stole her sunglasses taught her to love unconditionally and made her able to appreciate her now-husband when he finally came along. She ended the post by saying, “Sometimes people ask if I’d like to go back and change anything in my life. I would be afraid to do that. If I changed one thing, then maybe I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”
I’d be afraid too. When I look back on my life and my husband’s life, I can see how each disaster actually brought us one step closer together and made us better people.
I’m more resilient and more hopeful than I was. I’m more merciful. I think I’m also more patient and determined. And I’m doing what I love for a living.
When I look at the challenges we’re still facing and the challenges people we care about are facing, I can’t help but think one day we’ll look back on them, too, and be unwilling to change a thing because of the place they brought us to.
Do you think we get something from enduring trials that we couldn’t get from a perfect life? Would you do back in time and change anything if you could?
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Photo Credit: Debra Kristi on WANA Commons