The Coupon King: Triggers
It’s been 21 years since I was huddled around a little 13” black and white TV. But it was a night I will never forget. It was a sad day in October of 1992 when the Pittsburgh Pirates lost to the Atlanta Braves in game 7 of the NLCS. That night will always haunt me…I literally cried. But then again, I was only 11 years old. There was no digital age yet, and the bunny ear antennas put off a little white fuzz every once in a while on our little TV, but that never stopped me from fully enjoying baseball. I loved baseball even if my favorite team didn't always win. I watched it, played it, traded it (don’t tell me you don’t know what baseball cards are), and dreamed about it. It’s been a long 21 years, but seeing the Pirates win this past Tuesday in their first playoff game in as many years brings back a lot of memories. You see, it’s not just that night, but it’s the foul ball I retrieved off the bat of Bobby Bonilla, the same ball that Zane Smith signed. It’s the countless nights being bat boy for the American Legion baseball teams…and then eventually playing on them. It’s the young days of T-ball playing on the "Dodgers" team, and I could go on and on. The thing that strikes me, though, is how one game on TV can trigger so many memories and emotions. And really, that’s how life is. Triggers.
Have you ever gotten mad at someone, and then wondered why? Have you ever reacted in the moment and then walked away clueless at the reason you did it? Triggers seem to have that effect on us. You see for most of you reading this, the game this past Tuesday night meant nothing more than another forever long marathon of a white ball with red stripes being paraded through PNC Park; it was just another game. For me though, it triggered a lot of memories. Memories that have been hanging around dormant for 21 years.
That’s the way triggers work. They go so much deeper than baseball. They literally effect the way we interact with life. What may be an innocent comment for most people, becomes an insult for you because it triggers a memory of an abusive friend. What seems to be a silly saying by your husband, infuriates you because it reminds of that stupid thing your dad would always say. Triggers are a funny thing. They seem so innocent to everyone around you, but they mean so much to you. Maybe it’s that thing your kid does causing you to become a raging parent for a few quick moments, and your spouse is lost as to what caused it. You just don’t want your kid to do what you did that one time. And most of the time, it’s all innocent. Nobody is even headed down the same path you encountered, but they trigger something inside of you that makes your brain go in 100 different directions…none of them good.
So while we revel in the good moments that trigger happy memories (just like I did Tuesday night), we shudder in the moments that trigger bad memories. And sometimes we react in those moments…and it never ends well. Maybe it’s in those moments that we need to STOP. Celebrate people for who they are, not who their innocent actions trigger you to remember. It’s never easy, because the past did hurt. But the present can be so much better. And maybe when we recognize triggers for what they are, we can start to allow God to bring healing to that area. After all, isn't that what Jesus did for the woman caught in the act of adultery? I’m sure when he approached the situation, she had her triggers exploding in her mind. But he took her in a different direction…a direction of wholeness, not condemnation. Let Jesus be present when your triggers erupt. Let Him rewrite those moments for you. Let Him take you from reacting to adapting.
I hope this October brings you to a place of reveling in the moments that happy triggers produce and adapting in the moments that bad triggers ignite. I know I’m going to take a few moments over the next few days to let the Pirates be a trigger for some great childhood memories. I also want to invite Jesus into the moments when people do or say things that trigger the not so happy memories. With his help, we can turn those memories into part of the story of his grace and mercy.