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We are familiar with the saying: You can’t be sure of anything except change.
The seasons change from Spring to Summer to Autumn to Winter – and next year even they will be different to this year’s seasons. Life is constantly changing and we can’t stop the process. We change from being a baby, to a toddler, to a teenager and eventually to old age and death. We accept these stages, even if only philosophically.
Maybe the term: Living with uncertainty, elicits a bit more emotion, especially in areas where we may feel vulnerable.
When we are on the brink of a new adventure, a new relationship, commencing a new career, setting off into the sunset, although we realize things are going to change, we look forward eagerly to what we believe is going to be exciting and good for us. We could say we are living with uncertainty but with joy and anticipation of good things to come.
However, if we are entering old age without loved ones or insufficient funds to see us through the days and years ahead; if we have had to flee from our homes because of some untenable situation; or from the country of our birth because our lives are threatened or that of our families; if we have just lost our jobs, or our homes, or a loved-one and the future looks awful, living with uncertainty could be with fear, dread, pain, hopelessness and despair.
We know that change and the unknown is part and parcel of life, yet when we are feeling vulnerable how can we learn to live positively and with hope.
Maybe we are people of habit and like with our preferences for this or that, we only feel comfortable with change and uncertainty when we initiate it or can see the need to live for a while with uncertainty. Maybe when change is forced upon us, when we don’t have a choice, when the change is too different, or it catches us unaware, we find it threatening, uncomfortable and stressful.
Does the discomfort tell us something about our expectations of life, of ourselves and of others and what we believe is the rightness of things, even the fairness of God? Does it tell us something about our intolerance of other ways, faiths, cultures, habits?
Paul in the New Testament says he has learnt to be content with much or with little. His contentment is not affected by what life throws at him as his hope and faith is not in the happenings in his life but in the assurance that God is always with him, working all things out for the good of all involved.
We can be comforted and assured when we choose to believe that God is in charge and is the same yesterday, today and forever towards each one of us. His consistency can afford us a sense of peace and hope in what can often be the turmoil of our lives.
Whilst God does not change, we do need to change. We need to grow and become wiser, kinder and more aware and responsive to God and his call upon our lives in making our earth a place, like unto heaven, to be a part of.
We don’t know what the future holds, but if we choose to believe that each day, come what may, is a gift of life and an opportunity given to us by God whose desires that we become all we are created and equipped to become, then the blocks allowed in our way will be the building blocks we need to ultimately bring us to full maturity and peace with ourselves, our neighbours and with God.
Henri Nouwen in his book Bread for the Journey puts it like this:
Hope is the trust that God will fulfil His promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom. The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future. The person of hope lives in the moment, with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands. All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope. Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary, Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi and Dorothy Day, all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them towards a future without the need to know exactly what it would look like. Let’s live with hope.
I am in a place of nothingness. I don’t feel like doing anything or seeing anyone or talking. Not much like writing either, but I’m doing so to help me to find out why I am feeling as I do. I have no grounds for feeling empty. I am comfortable in practically every way and have every reason to be grateful, peaceful and content!
Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ, a Jesuit priest, in his book God’s Voice Within, writes how though he was happy in the ministry he was involved in, he felt guilty about his privileged existence. He writes:
I was troubled by a notion that I should be ministering to the destitute out in the missions somewhere. I say ‘troubled’ because it was not so much a great desire as much as a feeling of guilt for all the things I had in life …. I also felt guilty for ‘wasting’ my precious young priesthood on the wealthy rather than on the poor.
It was only after a four-month stint in the Uganda bush that he came to accept his own calling back home in America, through a most enlightening and meaningful friendship with young 20-year-old, Azay. Azay had been taken away from his family at the age of 9 and forced to work and fight in the Sudanese rebel army or face certain death for his entire family. After escaping from the army in his early teens, he spent years moving through many hostile countries and situations as a refugee, eventually building a little mud hut here in Uganda where they met.
A significant turning point came when God spoke to him about the contrast between Azay, who was always happy, well-adjusted and active in his community, and one of his students back home who though he was blessed with most things anyone could want, was deeply disturbed and had been admitted to a treatment centre in America. God said to him – Mark, which of these two young men needs a priest more? Which is more impoverished?
Mark Thibodeaux says that gradually he, with God’s grace, was able to let go of the guilt that had distracted him from giving his all to the students back home.
Isn’t it strange how sometimes we can find no relief for the way we feel and then someone more admirable than us, like Mark, admits to something negative in his own life, and because of his honesty we are encouraged to tackle something negative in our own lives.
My problem of feeling otherwise, is I think, because I don’t seem to be getting any better as a loving, kind and unselfish person. This feeling sabotages my attempts to get up and try again. It also undermines my writing.
Maybe God would say to me: Jeanette, do you have to be perfect before you can share and communicate with others, before you can be used by me? Like Mark, you are getting in touch with your humanity. Sharing that – the good, the bad, and the ugly – may be just what someone else needs to hear to help them on their way.
Each of us is different, with different problems, struggles, abilities, personalities, missions, experiences, etc., and we need to trust that God is able to work with us, in us, and through us – whoever we are, wherever we are, whatever our circumstances are, whether we are young or old, struggling or victorious, etc. To wait until we are worthy before we share our stories with one another, will be too late.
The many doomsday prophesies of the Bible, I believe, are more warnings of what will happen if people do not change their ways, than pronouncements of God’s punishment.
What we practice in our living, will fashion our lives:
Practice abuse and we will be abused
Practice violence and it will come back to us
Practice manipulation and domination and it will be practiced against us
Practice grace and we will receive grace
Practice forgiveness and we will be forgiven
We need to examine our lives. If our lives are full of resentment, bitterness, anger and un-forgiveness, we are almost certainly unhealthy in some way in body, mind and/or spirit. It is as reasonable an assumption and conclusion as death is from jumping off a high building. We set in motion the life we choose, and the spin offs come one way or another. So it is in our own interests, let alone anyone else’s, to deal with our problems.
Not only do we experience tough consequences for our wrong choices and actions, but we become the people we don’t actually like. To compound our troubles, we then, consciously or unconsciously, attract people of similar dispositions as our companions. If we’re glum and negative, we are probably surround by those that are glum and negative. Of course the opposite is also true – if we are positive and happy, our companions are likely to be positive and happy people. If we are spiritually sensitive to God and those around us, our companions will more than likely also be.
If we think negatively, our lives will reflect negativity. If we think kind, loving, compassionate and understanding thoughts, our lives will reflect beauty.
The same principle is at work in all aspects of our lives. What we think and do will shape who we are. We may fool ourselves and others, but we will become the creatures we practice being. The scriptures say “As a man thinks, so is he”. And that power is ours to use well or to abuse. We draw into our world what we persist in dwelling upon. It’s the law of attraction.
Sometimes to reinforce the significance of our thoughts and deeds, I image that every time I choose to be loving in some way, God’s force of goodness is boosted; every time I barged along offensively in some negative way, ‘Satan’ force of evil is boosted. The depositories of Good and Evil are being filled and like a dam filling with rain water, our thoughts and actions – God’s good or ‘Satan’s’ evil, will overflow into the world and into our lives. Our influence in our private lives, the lives of others and even globally, is extremely significant!
God says we must not worry about getting back at others, and fighting for our rights. We should leave it to him as he is wisest to deal with it. Fighting with each other just perpetuates the negative cycle. Rather, we should seek constructive and life-giving ways to deal with difficult situations and relationships. By choosing to break the cycle in our own lives first, may well lead to destructive cycles being broken down in someone else’s life.
Jesus didn’t fight the domination systems of his day with violence. He chose not to retaliate to the abuse and pain he witnessed in the lives of those around him, but sought rather to find loving and transformative ways to overcome evil with good. Jesus lived out of a loving relationship with God and others, and believed that this was the way to turn the tide and bring grace into our world. Violence begets violence; grace begets grace.
I believe that when we experience the consequences of our thoughts and actions, we should view them as the natural outcome of what we think and do, and not as God’s punishment. Paying attention to the outcomes or consequences that happen in our lives is a great opportunity to change anything that is negative and harmful to us and others.
I believe God is more our counsellor than judge. That despite our rebuttal of God and our rejection of the ways he knows would be best for us, he reaches out to us to help us and encourage us to be all whom he knows we are capable of being, fortified once again by a deeper experience of God’s grace, goodness, kindness and wisdom. God warns us of the consequences of negative and wrong living so that we will come to understand that the way of love, is the true, good and just way to live.
I’m reading “Kissing Fish: Christianity for people who don’t like Christianity” by Roger Wolsey and wanted to share this quote with you.
“Again, a sage truth is, “That which we criticize most in others is that which we struggle with most ourselves.” A powerful bit of shadow work is to think about the people in your life who irritate you and rub you the wrong way—the people who you simply can’t stand. Then, think about how you are like those people. Consider how you share some of the same qualities and tendencies that you loathe in them. What you discover may be most revealing. Consider what you can learn from your shadow(s). What are they trying to tell you? You can come to see them as a gift—a gift that can help you be a more gracious and effective vessel of God’s love in the world.”
I’m reading “Spiritual Progress – Enhanced Version” by Madame Guyon, Francois Fenelon and wanted to share this quote with you, as I thought it pertinent to my recent post. This could have been a letter written by Fenelon to his friend Madame Guyon, to encourage her in her spiritual walk.
“You were at first in the fervor of your beginnings (I think this refers to the start of her/his profession), when no difficulties appear formidable. You said with Peter, it is good for us to be here; but it is often with us as it was with him, that we know not what we say. (Mark ix. 56.)
In our moments of enjoyment, we feel as if we could do everything; in the time of temptation and discouragement, we think we can do nothing, and believe that all is lost. But we are alike deceived in both. You should not be disturbed at any distraction that you may experience; the cause of it lay concealed within even when you felt such zeal for recollection (reflection).
Your temperament and habits all conduce to making you active and eager. It was only weariness and exhaustion that caused you to relish an opposite life (reflection & meditation). But, by fidelity to grace, you will gradually become permanently introduced into the experience of which you have had a momentary taste. God bestowed it that you might see whither He would lead you; He then takes it away, that we may be made sensible that it does not belong to us; that we are neither able to procure nor preserve it, and that it is a gift of grace that must be asked in all humility.
Be not amazed at finding yourself sensitive, impatient, haughty, self-willed; you must be made to perceive that such is your natural disposition. We must bear the yoke of the daily confusion of our sins, says St. Augustine. We must be made to feel our weakness, our wretchedness, our inability to correct ourselves. We must despair of our own heart, and have no hope but in God.
We must bear with ourselves, without flattering, and without neglecting a single effort for our correction. We must be instructed as to our true character, while waiting for God’s time to take it away (I prefer to think of this characteristic being transformed by God into something beautiful and beneficial to our greater wholeness and oneness of person). Let us become lowly under his all-powerful hand; yielding and manageable as often as we perceive any resistance in our will. Be silent as much as you can. Be in no haste to judge; suspend your decisions, your likes and dislikes. Stop at once when you become aware that your activity is hurried, and do not be too eager even for good things.”
(My comments in brackets)
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