A friend has been working through some interesting books and such on how to make the most of your life. I truly think he’s doing something he needs to do – and I am all in favour of him considering every possible angle and finding the path to his personal best. However, some of the stuff he’s working with has really strong “positive thinking” overtones – and those always worry me. I am willing to accept that when you take the WHOLE book/story/whatever into account, they’re probably not saying what it sounds like they are saying – but ya know, Catholic theology doesn’t actually say what it sounds like it says about a lot of things either if you read the whole thing – but nobody recognizes that fact in general conversation, not even most practicing Catholics.
All of you who’ve read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Faith, raise your hands.*
Yeah, thought so.
So back to the positive thinking stuff. The problem with saying “envision where you want to go, and you will get there” is that it’s too simple – and it’s also false. I know it isn’t likely what the authors intend … but that’s the ‘sound byte’ that it all boils down to and people say “bah, nonsense”. And rightfully so. I’m sure there’s more to it, but whatever it is, I already know it doesn’t apply to me. Maybe it applies to some people, I don’t know – but for sure, it isn’t for me. Five year plans and mission statements have NO place in my life.
I’ll tell you why.
I truly, deeply, do NOT believe in planning. Really, who am I to plan my life? Who am I to say what I think OUGHT to happen? My track record proves I have no business planning my own life. Ugh.
I had a plan, oh yes I did. Everything was going great, dreams all more or less on schedule. Then my baby died, and my heart broke. I healed, mostly, had another baby who was (and still is, actually) everything I had dreamed of, and things were starting to look better … and then my husband turned into a stranger because a tumour took over his brain, and then chaos reigned in my life for several years (literally): getting through the days with the bills paid and my sanity mostly intact was more than I could manage without a lot of help. Knowing me now, you’d never guess what it was like – it was truly, truly awful. I was a mess.
Part of what made that time in my life so bad was that I was struggling with the loss of my plans. That hurt – giving up the old dreams. Plus, I kept trying to make new plans, to come up with a new vision, to find the positive – and all that happened is that I hit wall after wall.
It was only when, in absolute despair and frustration, I threw up my hands and shouted, “FINE, God, YOU handle it, I QUIT, just … fix it! I don’t care how!” … well, things seemed to go even worse for awhile … and then … somehow … slowly, and without me noticing, they turned around. And here I am – and I feel like I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I just went along with the Leadings that came to me so clearly there was no arguing with them.
I did have to participate, though. First of all, I *listened*. I shut up about what I wanted. I stopped demanding that things happen the way I dreamed they should be.
And once I did - dreams bigger and better than anything I could have come up with were given to me. Just … given. Out of a clear blue sky.
Of course, then I had to find the courage to accept the gifts. It wasn’t easy, as these new dreams were way different and big and scary and totally outside my comfort zone – but they would not leave me alone. That quiet, insistent voice said “you need to do this.” I learned what it is to truly hear the Inner Light.
But see, the key was that I had to STOP trying to plan my life. I had to STOP trying to control the outcome. I had to accept that I honestly haven’t got a freakin’ clue about what would be best for me – and to just wait and see what happens … and then, as the Quakers say, to “Proceed as Way opens”.
You can’t hear what God says to you if you won’t shut up long enough to listen. And given how noisy our world is, and how loud our minds are, it can take a long time of purposeful LISTENING to even begin to sense the Leadings that are calling to you.
Hearing that Leading and going through the long process of testing it for truth, then finally accepting it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It was also the truest thing I’ve ever done, and has opened the door to a life richer and more wonderful than anything I could have planned for myself.
The dreams I could come up with were way smaller than what was actually out there waiting for me.
Don’t plan. Listen. Listen for as long as it takes – don’t rush into action. Stillness is powerful.
When the time is right, you will know what to do. If you don’t know what to do, the time to decide hasn’t come yet.
Proceed as Way Opens.
* Yes, actually, I have. Not in great detail, but I did read it. Comparative theology is a hobby of mine. I know, I’m weird.