A little wishful thinking, this morning….
If only I had understood, much earlier in my life, the joy and peace and that they come from being open to the promptings and urgings of the Holy Spirit and from being open to the grace to follow them.
If only I had known, while I was busy with work and marriage and raising children, that real joy, deep peace, and rich serenity come from allowing myself to be exactly where God wants me, doing what He calls me to do.
If only I had understood, way back then, that what is necessary to experience this joy and peace and serenity is to set aside my own wants and desires and “needs” in favor of what God asks of me.
While I linger in this “if only” way of thinking, I begin to wonder how my life would have been different if only I had understood all of this much sooner, and if only I had acted well on that understanding.
It’s while I’m imagining that life that I begin to realize that my maundering in the realm of “if only” is happening precisely because “if only” – is not. It didn’t happen, and my past life, the life I am trying to see through the lens of “if only,” is full of bells that I can’t unring – that I shouldn’t even try to unring.
And so I shift the lens, and as I am more and more often led to do throughout these days, I ask God what He means for me to learn from what’s going on here. And as He is always, and mercifully, willing to do for me what I cannot do for myself, I begin to see more clearly.
In a world where “if only” simply is not, then what is? The Lord God Himself answered it: He said: “I AM.”
Oh. This thought comes at me with such simple power that if I’d been standing, I’d have dropped to my knees.
When my Father God speaks of His own existence, His own eternal being, He does so always in the present tense. “I AM.” And now I catch a glimmering of what that means for me. He calls me to live in the present – to BE, not to wish. He calls me to do what lies in front of me to be done, rather than grieve the past. He calls me to be led forward, not to keep looking over my shoulder at what lies behind.
We hear a lot about “mindfulness” in our culture, and it’s usually presented in a sort of secular approach to being “spiritual” – live in the moment, think about actions and decisions before moving forward, be aware of how our actions affect others. When God tells me who He is – “I AM” — and calls me to live in the present, He is calling me to a state of profoundly spiritual “mindfulness.” He is reminding me that He has already dealt with all of those past failures. He sent His Son Jesus to die for them, and He raised His Son Jesus from the dead so that I, too, can triumph over those failures. It’s been handled, and He wants me to be free of the lingering doubts that this wishful thinking represents.
Here’s the thing. When I am focused on me, I get all wrapped up in the past and how I should have done it differently. I get all tangled in “what if” and “if only” and I miss the point altogether. Of course my life would be different if I had made different decisions. But where did I come up with the assumption that it would necessarily be better – for me and for others?
When I am focused on God, and when I am focused on living out His calling and His purpose for me, I get outside of all that. I get free of it. God, Who IS, wants me to understand that He was always loving me, always leading me, always bringing good out of my badness. That’s how He continues His work of creation and redemption in my life.
When I am focused on God, I find myself more and more open to His grace, to His Spirit working in me. My energy is liberated for the work He has for me to do NOW. When “if only” is cast forward, it becomes “I will….” He has poured His grace on my life, to forgive and to write straight with those crooked lines I drew and to hold the pen with me as I strive to draw straighter lines for the path ahead.
Why, oh why would I try to limit Him and the way He wants to work in my life by getting all tangled up in “if only”? Today, I belong to God, and I walk with Jesus, Who always seeks me and rejoices when I turn to Him. Today, I set aside “if only” in favor of “Come, Holy Spirit, and fill my heart. Lead me to shine with the Light you bring. Let my joy in You be complete, and guide me to do Your work in the world around me.”
My Father God has taken care of yesterday, He knows exactly where I need to be today, and He has tomorrow planned for me. I just need to listen.
And I can live with that.
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