Well, that’s a bit harsh.
But doesn’t it sound like something your grandpa would say? I know mine would have. Although he’da said it in his soft sweet voice, which tampers a bit the clanging sound that goes right to the gut.
But grandpas tend to have learned a thing or two, and know that the truth is life is not fair.
As much as we wish it would be.
Perhaps wish isn’t a strong enough word.
Not matter how far we’ve come, the bags of coal deposited on our doorsteps still cause us to search for any way out from under them.
By any means.
We first deal with the shock of what happened, then complain, then try and undo whatever dastardly deed done to us. If that doesn’t work, we scheme.
We put untold amounts of energy into not accepting whatever the thing is we didn’t ask for in the first place.
Isn’t it all exhausting?
Why yes, it is.
But that stubborn ego doesn’t go down to defeat without a fight. That’s its nature.
Railing about whatever event or person or life in general that did us wrong is the ego’s first line of defense.
Funny thing about all that though, if you don’t learn the skills of acceptance and letting go, all the running in circles to control every event in your life will wear you to the bone.
Especially as you get older, when energy wanes a bit.
And that’s when so many folks finally go into therapy of some sort to deal with their “issues,” which stem so often from how life is not always fair.
My dear friend Suzanne is married to an Episcopal priest. And while that comes with tireless service, there are some perks involved 🙂
Recently her husband helped host a bishops’ conference in their city, and one of the main teachers was Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Richard Rohr.
Suzanne had sent me his tapes long ago, and he just speaks to my soul. His work centers on contemplation and compassion, and as a teacher he is one of the best.
Anyway, Suzanne was invited to hear his talk.
And among the litany of wisdom he discussed was something that took my breath away.
“What is the opposite of faith?” he asked. “We immediately think of that as doubt, no?”
I’m sure everyone nodded here.
“The opposite of faith is not doubt. It’s control.”
I’d never thought of it that way, had you?
We say we trust in the God of our understanding, no? We say the words. We may even think we believe them.
And then we go right back to our “real lives” and tell God we know she’s busy and we’ll handle all this 🙂
But what a mature person, with enormous faith, it takes to get quiet, contemplate, listen to the soft voice of the divine, make a plan based on that, do our part, and then let go of the outcome . . .
Wouldn’t you just rather tell people what to do and have them do it to your satisfaction? That’s so much easier!
But when we focus on how to become happy in life—and that’s what we all want, no?—we come to realize that Fr. Rohr hit the proverbial nail smack on its head.
If we truly had faith, we’d abdicate that blessed control.
Since hearing that, it’s become my litmus test of faith. When I say I believe something, say I’ve given it to God, say I’m doing my part and the divine will take care of the rest, I then look clearly and sharply at the situation to see where I’m still trying to control things.
And then turn that over as well.
Simple concept. Although of course simple rarely means easy!
I recently had quite a good test of this. It’s something I wish I didn’t have to confess . . .
I had an ooops breeding. First time ever—in 30 years. And although it wasn’t a disaster—it was a repeat of last spring’s litter, and I love what I kept out of it, Ms. Murphey Brown—oh, dear, was this not in the plan. For a thousand reasons. The way I do puppies is quite time consuming . . . Time I just didn’t have.
But after getting over the initial shock, I worked to let it go. To be okay with whatever happened. To non-resist, which has been one of the tools I’ve had to work on for decades to effectively practice. For a good bit of my life, I would have much rather pushed the river uphill than learned how to float.
In short, I knew I had to be okay with whatever happened—a litter of 13 or no pups at all or anything in between.
And I could hear Fr. Rohr’s soft voice in my head . . .
Long story short, Siren is not pregnant. We dodged that bullet! And even though I was prepared for puppies and truly okay with it, man, is this a relief! 🙂
Ah, control. Even when we think we have it, life has a way of laughing in our faces with events that show us how comical we are.
The old saying holds true: When you want to give the gods a laugh, tell them your plans . . .
But how freeing it is to let go. How much energy surges through the veins. Energy that can then be used for effective pursuits.
As Fr. Rohr says, “Faith does not need to push the river because faith is able to trust that there is a river. The river is flowing. We are in it.”
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.