The Journey Before You

It was a summer day. Bees were sticking their heads in flowers. Birds were bringing worms back to their nests. And the master was walking another apprentice through the garden. The young man was confused, “You tell us to work hard and you also tell us that what matters just happens.” The master said, “Yes, both are true.” The young man felt toyed with, “Why should we work hard if it doesn’t matter?”

As the apprentice kept talking, the master led him into a flowerbed of bee balm, zinnia, and salvia. The apprentice was lost in his want to have an answer, “I don’t know when to try and when to let go.” The master put a finger to his lips, urging the young man to be quiet and watch. A hummingbird hovered, its wings moving so fast they didn’t seem to be moving at all. It was hovering above the bee balm, drawing nectar into its thin bill.

The master whispered, “Look at the effort it takes to hover there. What a teacher. Just like this, we have to work so hard to ready ourselves for a drop of grace.” The young man fell silent and they both watched the hummingbird sucking nectar while working so hard to stay aloft. And yet, its motions appeared effortless. After a time, the master said, “You see, effort and grace are two sides of the same moment, and this is not to be feared.”

Each of us struggles to learn when to give our all and when to surrender and simply receive. But often, we’re asked to try like the hummingbird until we’re in a place to receive. Often, it’s our effort that leads us to a drop of grace.

This excerpt is from my book, The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart (Atria 2016).

*photo credit: Pixabay

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