Stop freaking out…

Stop freaking out… November 4, 2008

Election Anecdotes are here, but meanwhile…

We all want what we want out of this election, but I am getting some emails from people that are downright frantic. I’m not sure there is room for “frantic” – and certainly not for despair – in the life of a believer. Yes, things seem chaotic, but there are always angels in the whirlwinds.

Someone wrote early this morning, saying that she took comfort in Genesis 18, wherein we see the Lord telling Abraham he’ll spare Sodom and Gomorrah if he found ten just people there. “We have a lot more than ten just people” in America, this person wrote.

Yes. But then, there were more than ten just people in the Nazi concentration camps, yet six million Jews were slaughtered. And had the Holocaust horror not happened, we would have no living evidence of the darkness to which the human heart can descend, no reminder or understanding – with us, among the living – that we are, all of us, capable of atrocity under certain circumstances, and that saints are rare, and that we are all in need of mercy. And too, without the Holocaust, the State of Israel would not have been created. Anti-Israeli’s say this would be a good thing, but I disagree. Without getting into a debate about it, because I have no intention of doing so, I’ll say I think there is more evidence every day that Israel and the Jews belong together, and that Jerusalem should not be divided.

My point is not to get into a big thing about Israel, but to suggest to you that history always provides us with something that reveals to us our heights and our depths and reminds us that we are flawed and broken and imperfect, and yes, easily led. History takes every opportunity to humble us.

And sometimes a thing happens that seems to be utterly against one’s own interests, but you have to go with it – you always have to go with a development – to see what one event will bring about. When Rudy Giuliani dropped out of the NY Senate race in 2000, many people were frantic. There was “no way to stop Hillary Clinton” without him in the race – but in the end, Rudy taking time off to address his cancer meant he was the Mayor of NY on 9/11; where he clearly was meant to be.

And Hillary, for all she hasn’t done much as a senator, has not done badly, either.

No matter what happens in this election, take the long view – look further than today, and understand that everything we think, all of our instincts and our imaginative scenarios are limited, because our understanding is always limited. Which is why it is always so good to pray as Solomon did, “Lord, give me an understanding heart.”

But…if that’s not helpful to you, then I suggest you peruse the Online Retreat I hosted this summer, which was all about being open, surrendering, discovering possibilities and getting out of one’s own way. In particular check out the post entitled “Go With the Throw”.

And if you’re having trouble with the idea of God’s Will being so different than what you think it should be (after all, as someone else wrote to me, today “God is “pro-life!”) then try to take Mother Angelica’s advice and realize that God’s “will” can be better thought of as “God’s love,” if you truly believe that God allows nothing that is not – ultimately – toward a glorious end.

This is from the retreat, from August 11, Noon

From Mother Angelica, PCPA, a daughter of St. Clare:

When I was a young nun, I had a pretty rough time. I was always sick with something, and there were sisters who just drove me up the wall. I was at Adoration one night in the chapel and I knelt down and looked up at the Blessed Sacrament and said, “why does all this stuff have to happen to me? I’m trying so hard and nothing works – nothing! Then I went to my abbess and she keeps saying, ‘It’s God’s Will.’ Why does it always have to be Your will to treat us so miserably?”

When I finally calmed down, I heard this very gentle voice. “Try saying, ‘It’s My love,'” He said. God has mercy on drunks, children and nuns who are not very bright. I learned the hard way that everything that happens is His love, because His love and His Will are one and the same.

Do you really believe God loves you? If you do, you know everything that happens in your life is for your good. And it isn’t always a peaceful experience.
— From Mother Angelica’s Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality

A theme seems to be developing, for this retreat… it’s an old lesson that does not come naturally, not for the Christian or the Jew, the Muslim or the Buddhist, or even for the Jedi Knight. Paul tries to teach it in Romans 8, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God,” but this is no easy notion to take on faith, is it?

Not everyone reading this is a Christian, or even a believer in things “seen and unseen,” but everyone understands energy. If you cannot believe in a notion of “God”, then at least consider “the force.” George Lucas got it right in Star Wars. There is a force, all around us, and how we respond to it affects our lives, our health, our spirits. Passivity is not the answer; what comes our way comes for a reason. We live through everything either by going with what comes – applying the best of ourselves to each circumstance, and letting things develop as they will – or by putting up barriers and blockades of anger and fear, announcing, “this shall not pass.”

And funnily enough, when we put up the blockades, the thing never does pass.

The notion of “God’s will” or “God’s love” is an invitation to surrender. Surrender is not passivity. It is not simply looking at the cards you’ve drawn and announcing, “I got nothing, I’m out.” It’s looking at the cards and saying, like Hamlet, “I will this brother’s wager frankly play” even if the outcome does not look like it can be remotely satisfying from your perspective.

I’ve always thought the whole debate on birth control was analogous to the concept of surrender. In a back-and-forth with a Protestant reader, he wrote:

Here’s the thing … I don’t agree that using a condom or spermicide “actively precludes” God’s involvement in your life. As I said earlier, a condom or a spermicide is a paltry obstacle to the One who spoke the Heavens into existence. He can and has intervened in that way many times.

That is a perfectly reasonable argument. But faith – by its very nature – invites us, to couple reason with unreason as we deal with the great mystery of life and God, love and energy. Thus, my response:

Yes, I understand, and what you say is true…but that’s not surrendering. It is barricading oneself in but with an overall view of “well, if the fortress is breached, I’ll sign the treaty!”

Surrender – “not my will but thine be done” – is the ultimate goal. It comes with an open door, not a barricade, or it is not surrender, at all.

Today, take some time to ponder all of the things you try so desperately to control, and consider which of them are wholly out of your hands (some things naturally are) and which circumstances in your life seem like a bad deal that you should perhaps “frankly play.” In order to play it, you may have to concede a bit of control, or be ready to accept an outcome that is less than ideal, but which will not leave you barricaded behind a wall, unable to touch or be touched, unable to respond quickly to circumstances which may change in an instant. You can ask for help, it’s okay. Just try to comport yourself to receive an answer you may not, at first, much like.

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