What goes around comes around

In a world where we are accustomed to fixing or replacing things, it is not surprising that we find ourselves wanting the same thing in our spiritual lives.  We want our spiritual struggles ended now.

But typically, what goes around comes around.    All the biggest issues in our spiritual lives are usually defining for us.   They revolve around early, formative experiences and relationships or around life-shaping characteristics.  And for that reason, they can’t be fixed and forgotten.  Some examples:

  • A controlling, overbearing, or abusive parent will set a child on a lifelong quest to find love and battle his or her own anger.
  • A perfectionistic streak in us can be reinforced for a first child by birth order or a demanding mother or father, launching us on a lifelong quest for grace and a struggle with a tendency to be judgmental.
  • Struggles with feeling insecure or inferior can be reinforced by experiences at school or a sibling who seemingly achieves his or her goals with ease, setting the stage for a lifelong struggle with envy.
  • Our gifts can determine that what goes around comes around.  Your talent for caring, nurturing, teaching, problem-solving, making music, writing, speaking, working with your hands, or visualizing solutions will shape the world in which you live.  Each world has its gifts, but each one also presents peculiar challenges that often last a lifetime.
  • Sadly, in many arenas even our personalities, race, and gender can present a lifetime of spiritual challenges and as economies and societies shift, it’s not always obvious who will struggle.  There are many places where strong, capable women continue to struggle with a glass ceiling, in spite of advertised progress. But as our work worlds change, there are times when the ostensibly privileged white male will find it hard to live into his life’s vocation.

So, what are we to do?

First, set aside the unrealistic expectations:

Not all spiritual challenges are fixed forever.

Second, set aside the guilt.

Just because you continue to struggle with some issues does not mean that you are a spiritual failure, that God doesn’t love you, or that spiritual progress isn’t possible.

Third, embrace the truth.

What goes around comes around.  And what goes around is often the more important, formative issue in our lives.

Fourth, embrace the opportunity.

If it’s important, this is also where you will build true spiritual momentum in your life.

Fifth, live in hope.

Some issues may come around again and again.  But if you embrace the truth and name it, eventually even the frequent fliers in our lives will yield more easily to spiritual progress.  Those who struggle to feel loved will remember more readily that they are loved.  People who struggle with insecurity will learn that their gifts are nurtured in God’s presence, their value is not diminished by the gifts that others possess.

What goes around often comes around because it needs to come back around and on the other side lies freedom.

About Frederick Schmidt

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. holds the Rueben P. Job Chair in Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and directs the Rueben Job Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is an Episcopal Priest, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, conference leader, writer, and consulting editor at Church Publishing in New York. He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, as well as several books: A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998), The Changing Face of God (Morehouse, 2000), When Suffering Persists (Morehouse, 2001), in Italian translation: Sofferenza, All ricerca di una riposta (Torino: Claudiana, 2004), What God Wants for Your Life (Harper, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse, 2005), Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009), and The Dave Test (Abingdon, 2013). He and his wife, Natalie (who is also an Episcopal priest), live in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, with their Gordon Setter, Hilda of Whitby. They have four children and five grandchildren: Henry, Addie, Heidi, Sophie, and Drew, with a sixth on the way.