April 14, 2014
In the past few weeks it seems that I have been confronted with a number of situations where the plans I had made have been thoroughly confounded. It is always most disconcerting and severely disorienting when the detailed and well-crafted strategies and designs that I have so painstakingly constructed get overtaken by the people and circumstances my life encounters. I find myself frequently wanting to be resentful of the disruption that has been caused when what I wanted and anticipated is shoved aside by a completely different experience of reality than what I had expected.
At times like this the advice of the spiritual author, Parker Palmer, comes to mind -- “let your life speak.” In other words, be open to what God is leading you into. Palmer goes on to say, “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen to what it intends to do with you.”
Communication is always a complex art involving an intricate dynamic of listening much and speaking wisely. It is all the more complicated when we engage in conversation with God because the media of our exchange are different from the face-to-face (or even computer-to-computer) interaction with which we are accustomed. So that causes us to have to be more attentive and alert to the many and diverse ways in which God reveals God’s self and plan to us.
The persons and situations that come into our lives are vehicles of God’s communication with us. They serve as invitations into new opportunities for encounter and growth and frequently onto paths that we would not have otherwise chosen for ourselves. And if we allow ourselves to be attentive to the promptings and signs that come to us in unexpected and unplanned ways, we come to experiences of genuine joy and fulfillment that are far different than those which we attempt to artificially create for ourselves.
This week the Christian world remembers and relives in a special way the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the most powerful themes that emerges from this recounting is an acceptance of the phenomenon that what I want does not really matter. Our personal wills are not the ultimate driving force behind our lives. We are more than our narrow and self-serving desires. We are far more than the limited scope of our own visions. We are major actors with God in the unfolding of creation, according to a vision and a dream that is far different than even our wildest imaginings.
I used to be quite envious of those who had a clearly outlined and well-scripted plan for their lives. They seemed so self-assured, purposefully directed and ultimately seemingly so successful and accomplished. My life and, I suspect, those of most of us have not been written in straight progressive lines, but in rather haphazard, zigzag patterns that defy predictability and resist simple description. And yet there is an incredible beauty that unfolds, quite without our effort and quite beyond our control, when we allow ourselves to respond honestly, directly and fully to our lives as they are presented to us.
In some aspects of the daily functioning of our lives we have to have a plan – the roads I need to take to get to grandmother’s, the courses I need to take to graduate. But from a larger perspective, maybe we don’t need to be in complete control; maybe we don’t need to impose our plan on life; maybe we only need have a vague sense of direction that at every twist and turn keeps us attentive and alert to discerning the next best encounter with grace and God.
Vice President, Mission Integration
Saint Thomas Health