Hardship, Growth, and the Gods

Recent conversations with a young relative facing difficult times prompted a conversation that I think bears repeating here.

Heathens have a different relationship with our gods than the people of the major religions do, and as a consequence,  we also pray in a different way. We don’t tend to ask to be taken care of, or protected. We might ask for help, we might ask for a specific boon to be granted, but we do not in general look to our gods to take care of us.

To illustrate my point, let me retell the popular “Footprints In the Sand” story from an Odinic perspective.

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with Odin.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to Odin.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked Odin about it.
“Odin, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He yelled, “Of course I left you, you @^%#$ idiot! How the hel will you ever learn anything or become strong if I go around carrying you? Use your head!”

The heathen way is to develop the self, and to try to become a better person, in all the different ways we heathens define that. We heathens do not wonder why there is evil, hardship, and bad luck. We do not expect that our gods will protect us from these things. Instead, we try to use these things to learn and grow.

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2 thoughts on “Hardship, Growth, and the Gods

  1. Troy hansen says:

    Wayland,
    Love the heathen version of footprints in the sand. Another popular saying goes jesus loves you but Odin will make you grow the fuck up. Now that I have heard it, I prefer the heathen footprints because it makes the point much clearer. Our path to Manaz is hard and lonely but we also learn to experience joy in the face of hardships.
    I have heard too many refer to a hardship as a test. As if passing or failing are the only options or as if after the test is over there won’t be another and another. I don’t see it that way. Why deny yourself the opportunity to fully experience what you are made of and who you are by embracing your hardships? I see hardships as challenges and life in general as a challenge… a challenge to be and do the best we can given our circumstances. Perhaps this is why our spiritual ancestors laughed in the face of impossible odds and sure death. They knew these moments in life were opportunities to grow. Growth is the heathen’s focus not passing or failing and certainly not the outcome. Thanks for this reminder Wayland! Keep up your awesome work.

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