Do you have wise words that you keep coming back to time and time again?
Of course, for many of us as people of faith, we might have a favorite scripture or two. Some Christians even have what they call a "life verse" that they memorize and recite in moments of life crisis. As a pastor, I've been asked more times than I can count what are places in the Bible I find most meaningful.
It's almost as if when I reach a crossroad in my life-- a time when I feel confused, a time when I don't understand God, life or even my place in it-- I find wisdom again in these words. These quotes are like anchors in all the uncertainty of what it means to live life from day-to-day.
If someone asked me for life wisdom, these quotes would be the best I had to offer.
I've loved these words since I first encountered them on a retreat my first year of seminary because they speak to giving up control of our lives. At any point, we might say we're certain about a decision.
We might think we've made the right call. But, the truth of the matter is that NONE of us ever really know. We do the best we can.
And God does what only God can do, what we cannot!
It's a scary process but Merton adds, at the end of the prayer: "I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone." So what a comfort! We're never alone. I never tire of hearing this.
This passage is one of my latest obsessions as I re-discovered it on the front of a birthday card a friend sent me years ago.
Here's the truth of these words: often times in life we just can't know what we want to know. Our lives crack into shambles. Try as we must but we just can't make it better. The tears keep coming. The anger seeks to boil over.
But, there's hope. There's always hope. We live the questions. And as we live the questions, we might just one day "live into the answers" without even knowing that we're doing it. What lovely thought that I've seen come true in the stories of my life.
Truth be told, I don't know any other way to sum up life than these words. I even shared a particular story about my love of this quote this time last year.
Beautiful things happen. Terrible things happen. They often happen in the same season of life, the same month of life, or even the same day.
None of us ever "arrive" to a happy state where terrible things can't hurt us. None of us ever find ourselves in a pit so deep that goodness can't save our lives. Part of what it means to be a citizen in this world to accept the presence of both. We ask for help when we need it. We celebrate when lovely things happen. Then, repeat.
We need not waste our precious time on earth on projects, ideas or even jobs for that matter that bring us down.
Sure the bills need to be paid. And sometimes we all need to do a particular kind of work just to have a steady paycheck.
But, never should this be our entire existence. We need to make spaces in our days to come alive-- to find joy, to love others, and to embrace new possibilities (even if others call us crazy).
You and I all know people who are "alive" and we want to be around them, don't we? No matter if their passion is keeping the greens at the golf course or babysitting their grandchildren or tutoring struggling elementary school students-- their excitement for life is contagious. Our world needs more of this, doesn't it?
So, what about you? What quotes do you keep close (and why?). I'd love to hear from you. Let's encourage each other.
It's amazing to me the people I meet in my travels who all seem to complain about the same thing.
The obligations in their lives that totally bring them down.
"Oh, we're going to see my uncle on Easter again this year. We always have such a miserable time but . . ."
"Oh, the moms at my kid's soccer practice drive me crazy and the coach is just so rude to my boy, but . . . "
"Oh, I signed up for another 3 year term on that community board that saps the time I'd rather spend with my friends, but . . ."
What is it with our love of self-abuse? And our inability to say no? And our falling prey to guilt trips?
I do it. You do it. We all do it.
We over commit to projects because "nobody else did" and couldn't be farther away from our true interests.
We get caught in the vicious cycle of doing the same things year after year (forgetting why we started doing that thing in the first place!)
We let people and experiences make us miserable.
But there's an alternative, you know. I bet you've tried it before. And, I bet you loved yourself when you did. It's what I call moving toward love or in the words of one of my favorite Howard Thurman quotes-
When we begin to let the priorities of our calendar reflect what we love and what makes us come alive, I believe our whole life begins to change.
Instead of filling our days with stuff that just checks stuff off the list or keeps the world spinning around (or so we think), we have the choice every day to move toward love-- doing what we enjoy the most and the people we enjoy the most doing it with!
By this I don't mean we all go out and quit our day jobs tomorrow (the bills do have to be paid), but we begin by making small choices every week in the direction of what we love. Maybe for you it's a . . .
For moving toward love IS whatever brings us both joy and deeper connection to ourselves and/ or others.
Anne Lamott says it best: "I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We're here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play."
It take courage of course to live like this-- to come alive.
NO can be an earth shattering word to people around us, especially as we begin to say potentially for the first time.
It's hard to tell our children no.
It's hard to tell our parents no.
It's hard to tell our best friends no.
It's our life that we will one day be accountable before our Maker. So why would you and I want to waste our precious days on relationships, on projects, or on experiences that make us feel less than? Or drained? Or discouraged? Really why?
So if you're needing someone to give you permission this week to say yes to something you LOVE and no to something you hate, let me be your pastor today.
It's a great spiritual path.