Grace and Peace to you and through you
I think there is a deep part of us that demands immunity from the terrifying terrors of life. Our hidden fears drive this demand. We want exemption status from the basic unpredictability of life. We do not easily embrace the truth that our lives are exposed and vulnerable and fragile. As David Whyte says “… the personality continues to seek power over life rather than power through the experience of life…”. Yes we want to be in control of life and the difficult truth for us to bear is that much of life is beyond our control.
So what do we do?
Sadly, instead of accepting the truth of life’s randomness as a given, we often embrace the illusion of control, certainty and security. Sometimes our religious view or faith understanding feeds the embracing of this illusion. We project our desire for control onto God through the mantra “God is in control”. As if belief in God were some kind of insurance policy against tragedy and that somehow my belief in God is going to keep me safe in this unsafe world. If that be the case then all I can say is this “God of protection” has done a pretty lousy job over the centuries and as of late, with people being killed here, there and everywhere. Surely we have to ask: “What kind of God would favour me over them? What kind of God would protect me and not them?”. A selectively-protective-God makes no sense to me and I believe this kind of reasoning has more to do with my inability to accept life’s fragility than it does with the nature of God. If the life and death of Jesus teaches us anything, it is that no one is immune from life’s piercing.
This is why I personally do not pray for physical protection. God promises salvation not safety. Salvation is the gift of life in all its fullness… regardless of life’s circumstances. Therefore I do pray for salvation. I pray that in all of life’s unpredictable ups and downs I will be alive to God’s loving presence in my life and in the world. Rather than being granted immunity from pain, I want to be alive to God, to Love within the pain. For those with eyes to see, all of our lives are graced with this gift of salvation. One of the greatest privileges in my ministry is to witness people who under the burden of serious hardship or terminal illness embrace the harrowing truth of their situation as a new medium through which to experience the Divine. These people live and die differently – with light in their eyes.
Another catchy phrase that some of us like to say with the same purpose of gaining some control over the uncontrollability of life is: “Everything happens for a reason.”. Well of course everything happens for a reason otherwise it would not have happened. It is obvious, but when we say it we are not meaning it in this obvious sort of way. Rather, what we mean is that whatever has happened is part of a well-orchestrated plan arranged by God or caused by “the universe” (which is the non-religious way of referring to God these days). This often places horrific deeds at the foot of God’s door – as if somehow attributing God responsibility for the deed makes it less horrific or even holy.
Dare we accept the unpredictability of life as a gift that liberates life from an oppressive mundaneness? This does not mean that I resign myself fatalistically to “what will be, will be”. No. I have an ultimate hope that all things will be gathered up within the loving embrace of the Divine. As Martin Luther King Jr said: “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”.