The truth is that I would prefer to choose where I was planted rather than where I bloomed. But life’s not wrapped up with a shiny bow like that! In fact, many aspects of life are not chosen. We don’t get to select our parents, our skin color or place of birth. Things which turn out to be pretty significant in life.
However, we do get to choose our responses. Free will is one of the greatest blessings or curses depending on how you look at it. As 2017 has already started emerging on the planet, we stand at a new threshold. 2016 has revealed some of the ugliest underpinnings of the human experience both domestically and abroad. A New Year presents new opportunities to make new choices. We can’t always choose where we’re planted, but we can make a decision to bloom anyway.
A prayer for 2017
When life requires bold strokes,
May we meet the threshold with
Courage and Bravery.
When tensions rise and tempers flare,
May the power of Grace + Peace
Put out the flames.
May we rise to unite
When division threatens to undo us
And may we re-find our voice
And blend the hot tremors of our harshest tenors
To speak with each other again.
Some time ago, two friends invited me to lunch at their home. I had gotten to know them through a class that we were involved in.
From the moment I stepped into the home, I knew that this would be an unforgettable experience. It was a celebration of friendship in which they had lovingly baked and cooked a real feast. It was such a delight! I was touched by the care and attention they had taken to do something special for me. It still means a lot even as I remember it so many years later.
I was at their table and they had taken pains to make the experience something they knew I would love and appreciate. It was a moment of pure pampering for the soul. I left that luncheon feeling nourished in spirit and body.
Now what if I had sat at the table and not expressed appreciation for the care and attention they had obviously put into the meal? That would have been rude and mean-spirited on my part. Not only would I have ruined the pleasure of the meal for them, I would have ruined it for myself as well. That’s the nature of human interaction. We tend to get out of relationships what we put into them.
In life, we’re often guests at someone else’s table. And it’s not always set the way we would do things if the table was at our house. It may be a boss who has a different set of expectations than you do or a friend who looks at a situation from a unique perspective. Regardless of the particular context, the point is this -it’s not our way.
But so what? Why does it matter? Why not simply accept the fact that a different way can be embraced and enjoyed simply for what it is. It’s really not about if we’re at my table or yours; it’s about being mature enough to appreciate and cherish what others bring as their unique gift and accepting it for what it is and being OK with what it is not.
I am thankful for the growing realisation that much of what causes angst and grief in our lives is not personal. It may feel personal because we experience it within our personal space. Yet if we are able to step back out of the heat within the moment, we may find that the perceived assault, attack or insult may indeed have little to do with us. Or we may discover that we have set out on a very foolish or unwise path which guarantees chaotic grief to anyone who insists on continuing in that particular direction.
Becoming thankful as a verb means choosing to actively engage tense and difficult moments as an opportunity to gain wisdom. I’ve found that some of life’s most teachable moments are draped within the unconventional garb of emotionally charged exchanges. When examined in clearer context, these situation often have a larger context which may not be initially visible. And then… Sometimes life just is simply what it is.
When the fault is mine, becoming thankful for the course correction makes regaining equilibrium easier and minimizes the loss of vested emotional, spiritual and mental energy. On this note, I am reminded of the experience of one hapless prophet and his improbable tutor – one very stubborn talking donkey as the story is told in the book of Numbers 22:1-39.
Balam’s reckless journey to curse the Israelites as commissioned by Balak is interrupted by an angel threatening to end his life. Unfortunately, Balam is blind to the danger right in front of him. Fortunately his donkey is not! After beating the hapless beast repeatedly, the donkey finds a voice and has a conversation with Balam about his angry response.
It is only then that Balam’s yes are opened to his foolishness. He also sees the angel with a sword who is about to chop him into minced meat to punish him for messing with the wrong people! The stunned prophet ends up having a conversation with both a donkey and an angel about the dubious course he seems hell-bent on taking. Suddenly the resistance of that donkey became something to be very grateful for!
Sometimes, it takes the bizarre elements of life to awaken us to the fact that we have much to become thankful for. Becoming thankful as a way of responding to obstacles may actually awaken the power of grace and God’s protection in the midst of seemingly insurmountable difficulty.
It’s an odd thing isn’t it -the idea of becoming strong by being willing to be weak? Laying down the defenses and weapons which we wield with a temerity that can border on madness in order that the strength of God may be made manifest within our weakness. The reality that God’s strength perfects itself within weakness remains a mystery which defies rational explanation. One discovers that within the humility of vulnerability lies a core strength that is supple, bendable, flexible and able to withstand enormous strain.