"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Gift of Uncertainty

By Micky Wolf

As the first-born growing up in a household with an alcoholic father, I knew first-hand and very quickly what it meant to wake up in the morning and go to bed at night with an ache in my gut. Not because I was hungry but because I never knew what the hour or day would bring. The uncertainty made for a miserable existence.

My chosen mode of survival was to be the good girl, the responsible one, to never ever rock the boat, or tip the glass. All of which helped me get through my teen years in one piece—and out the door and on my own six weeks after graduating high school. Having secured a decent paying, full-time job in the final month of school, it didn’t take me long to find a cheap, clean one-room walk-up to get moving with my life. I was more than ready to make my mark.

Many credible studies in recent decades have provided solid evidence that children born into families dominated by chaos (of pretty much any description) eventually leave these nests-of-disorder determined to not repeat the scenario.

As adolescents, we may not be able to fully explain why we will do almost anything to travel a different path, but that is the goal for many of us. We long for and seek consistent peace and quiet. We have had more than enough unpleasant surprises and disruption.  Eventually, as adults, we focus our effort and energy on maximizing the predictable and minimizing the unexpected.

For years, my sense of responsibility and deeply ingrained people-pleasing attitudes held me in good stead with employers and friends. Until I received a different kind of wake-up call from God: you can’t please all the people all the time and you certainly can’t make pleasing me a priority when you spend all your energy and efforts trying to manage every little detail of your life. 

Put another way: “When are you going to let go of your need to control? It. Is. Not. Working.”

“I know, God.” We’ve been through this a number of times. And yet, here I was, in need of a gentle Divine Reminder of this Truth in recent weeks.

Surprise and disruption are foundational to the Christian life. If they aren’t, you’re probably not paying attention to God’s will for your life but rather focusing on your own plans. Ask me how I know. I’m losing track of all the ‘surprises and disruptions’ that that have occurred in the past couple of months.

If it hasn’t been the weather messing with planting the vegetables and flowers, it’s been getting a summons in the mail for jury duty. And then there’s the increased weekend work schedule for my beloved which wreaks havoc on our couple plans, ministry and play. Oh, and let’s not overlook a corrective surgery which will be happening sooner rather than later.

You’d think all of this was a matter of life and death. It is. God has allowed it to be so. Why? To allow me to be in a position of seeing the need to die to self—again. Make that self-managing. Self-planning. Self. Self. Self.

Uncertainty made-to-order in surprising packages. God has an interesting way of gift-giving. The wrapping is nondescript. Or it may be so loud and colorful we want to close our eyes and plug our ears.

God’s gifts often don’t look, smell, taste, or appeal to us in the slightest. They sound weird, dress funny, and behave in a manner totally different from anything we have ever experienced. That’s the idea.

We know God works in mysterious ways but when He chooses something which, by our measure, threatens our sense of being able to control things, we plant our feet and jut our jaw, sometimes literally.

Opening the gift of uncertainty opens the door to more fully being the person God has created each of us to be. Yes. And I certainly can’t open that gift if my fingers have a white-knuckled grip on trying to manage every moment and detail of every real (or imagined) event or circumstance yet to unfold.

Don’t get me wrong. Being responsible is a good thing.

Wanting to get along with people and pleasing others is a good thing.

Having objectives and goals is a good thing.

All this good goes awry, however, when we make the “being, wanting and having” more important than trusting God, in the moment, to speak to our hearts in the hope we will respond to His light touch as He points us in a different direction, one He knows will be the blessing we cannot yet see or understand.

God is not a brute who will pry each of our fingers loose from old, outdated, behaviors and attitudes that may have served us well as children, developmentally or spiritually. He will, however, be quite content to allow the circumstances and people into our lives through which He can work to encourage and strengthen us in making choices more befitting mature daughters and sons of our Most High God.

I’m not so comfortable with uncertainty these days that I yawn when it shows up in my life. At the same time, the ache in the gut when another surprise or disruption occurs has pretty much disappeared. Not because I’m so responsible, always getting along with people or have clearly stated objectives and goals, but because I make the choice—again and again—to open the gift of uncertainty and believe God knows better than I what is best for this hour, this day.

As we grow more fully into the unique person God has created us to be, we learn His certainties will often feel like our uncertainty. But in order for us to bear the good fruit embracing the uncertainty is designed to produce, we have to die to those things which may have served us well as children. 
How do I feel about uncertainty? Fearful? Peace-filled?

How do I feel about surprises and disruptions? As God working in my life?

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