Life sure has its way…you know?
Today I’m reminded that despite life’s attempts to bury me — the people I’m surrounded by, the moments of true connection, and the experiences I have with the Divine are enough to hold me safely within the arms of a brand of peace that truly transcends the limitations of my comprehension. You know, the “peace that surpasses all understanding” Paul talked about in his letter to the Philippians. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, take a quick gander here.
When I meditate on this piece of ancient writing, it truly comes to life. When I consider that Paul wrote this letter to the people in Philippi from prison, it bears new weight. And when I consider the trajectory of my own life, past and present, I am confronted with the reality that wether my discouragement comes in the form of hope or expectations not being met, or simply because people have a tendency to make things difficult — my trust, or my ability to yield to the “way of things” was never contingent upon any preconception or promise that everything would go smoothly to begin with.
The simple fact of the matter is, things just don’t typically go the way we intend.
Now I don’t personally believe that everything happens for a reason. In fact, when I hear someone say this to another person who is grieving, or wrestling with life’s tough stuff, or trying to make sense of tragedy or trauma — I want to crawl out of my skin.
I tend to believe that shit happens.
Shit happens because life is life and people are people — and isn’t that both the beauty AND the danger of giving yourself wholly to life and to others?
What matters when life happens, what matters when people do what people do, is how we respond and how we allow ourselves to deal with the difficulties and disappointments. If this is true, then maybe the point of religion or spiritual journeying is not to avoid discouragement altogether, or placate our suffering with anecdotal statements, but to embrace the pilgrimage for all that it is — the beautiful, the dirty, and the sometimes utterly devastating.
Let me get to the point I’m hoping to make…
If life is happening at its normal and furious pace, if people that you have opened your heart to have not met your expectations in return (we’ll save the “unrealistic expectations” talk for another post), if hope has been deferred and deferred again, if disappointment and discouragement seem to mark your journey faithfully — like mile markers on a never ending desert highway, if religion has left you with a heavy burden, if the church has placed you on the “outside”, and if your questions seem to begat more and more questions with less and less answers…maybe the “peace” you’re after — the peace WE are after — is found in trust.
…maybe the “peace” you’re after — the peace WE are after — is found in trust.
In a lot of ways, and I’m discovering this for myself, trust is counter-intuitive to a culture just trying to survive — just trying to insulate itself from more pain. Because why in the hell would we willingly open ourselves up to more opportunities to be burned? But god damn if it isn’t everything that we need right now. Trust.
Trust is counter-intuitive because it asks of us to place our firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something other than ourselves — and no one likes to believe we aren’t capable of anything in and of ourselves. But the truth is, I need you. The truth is, I believe that there is a creating and sustaining force in the world bigger than me, and I need to be able trust in its flow.
This brand of trust isn’t just counter-intuitive because we live in an ever-isolating culture of self reliance, it’s counter intuitive because religion has largely taught us that we should trust in our beliefs, or our ability to think rightly about things. But trust in our correct thinking or in our ability to say the right things in order to stay on the “inside” of the system isn’t really trust, it’s just another form of self reliance, and the feeling of safety from belonging to a group and its dogma is fleeting. I know from experience. (See “The Sin of Certainty” by Dr. Peter Enns for more on this)
Let me present this thought, and then you can do what you want with it…
Trust, flying in the face of reason, requires for us to let go of our need to control, asks us to let go of our obsessive desire for certainty, and invites others into the vulnerable spaces of our lives.
Trust is a letting go of, a falling into, an invitation of sorts.
It’s an invitation to intimacy, relationship, vulnerability, and connection — connection to the flow of Divine life that surges around and within us — and connection to each other, where we can touch and feel and reciprocate the love that will sustain us.
My ask of you, if I may, is to loosen your grip on control just a little and yield, in trust, to the flow — the way of things. To trust, just a little more freely, that the river is good.
Trust the flow, get in the river, go.