“Be still and know I am God.”
I have been a seeker and I still am, but I stopped asking the books and the stars. I started listening to the teaching of my soul.
The book I’ve been waiting for arrived earlier this week – The Dance of Life: Weaving Sorrows and Blessings into One Joyful Step by Henri Nouwen and edited by Michael Andrew Ford. I read it in 2006 just after it first came out. It was thought-provoking and obviously made a lasting impression because I was excited to order it again. This time I planned to immerse myself in the devotions practicing Lectio Divina.
Wow! The devotions I have immersed myself in are as meaty and relevant to my life today as they were in 2006. I’m no longer depressed but I am searching (once again).
At the moment, I can’t move beyond the third devotion, entitled Moving into the Unknown. I’m kind of a control freak (well more than kind of). I don’t like not knowing what’s around the corner. I don’t get over-the-top anxious but I do get a feeling of generalized unease when there is too much uncertainty. I minimize the unease by over-planning. I am famous (maybe infamous) among my friends for my elaborate spreadsheets with detailed tasks and precise due dates.
Meditating on this devotion, it came to me that my searching is actually fear of unknowing. I am avoiding the truth — that I don’t have an infallible crystal ball — and accepting the way of the heart demands radical acceptance of unknowing that I have been unwilling to commit to.
I have been searching for an easy way to have my cake and eat it too. The truth is this — I have to let go of the over-controlled, egocentric habits I’ve developed in order to live in the presence of God’s love in the here and now. I can’t control the future and the more I try — the more I miss the Holy Spirit in my being.
To live in God’s presence, I have to live in the present moment in the world, not in the stories of past and future in my mind. I have to give up the illusions of certainty, permanence and control for the suffering and joy of being in the world as it is, not as I wish it was.
This it not totally unfamiliar ground to me. I have come to this point before. Each time I’ve been here — I run away — preferring the familiarity and illusion of certainty of my over-controlling ways to the uncertainty of unknowing. In running away, I “forget” there is another way to live — a way to free myself from the burden of “having to” plan for every contingency and control the execution of every task.
It’s just come to me that I’m setting an impossible standard for myself. It’s all this or all that — either its God or my need to over-control. Realistically, changing my habit of over-control will take time and practice, noticing when I am present and noticing when I am not, and accepting both without judgment. To develop a new habit, I will need to be thankful for glimpses of God’s presence instead of beating myself up for missed opportunities (another thing us over-controllers do by nature).
Interestingly, I don’t feel like these insights came by using my intellect to analyze the devotion and its relevance to my life. I feel like the insights came to me by way of the Holy Spirit within me. There were no pillars of fire or voices from the clouds, just me opening myself and listening to the stillness that comes with the practice of Lectio Divina.
I hope you will join me on this journey. I can’t tell you where it will lead but I have faith it will be fruitful for both of us.