Sunday, October 16, 2016
My Life is Out of Control!
As I opened the Sweetest Day cards I realized that I had forgotten this secular “feast day”, and I rushed out to purchase cards. And so I was thinking about these card-exchanging friends and our closeness --- or lack of it on their part and mine --- as I later drove to the chapel for my late-night adoration.
My brights were on, but perhaps my mind was dim as I drove down a dark and narrow stretch of road --- when a deer raced into my path. I slammed on the brakes and all the books and things on the front and back seats crashed to the floor. Missed it, but only by a few feet, and I wondered who was more scared, me or it. Looking back, I realize my thoughts then were only momentarily interrupted by this perhaps life-threatening moment, but perhaps on another night they may have gone in a different direction.
Perhaps on another night I may have become angry and ranted: “You crazy deer!” Perhaps I may have wondered what it was thinking or where it was going. Or perhaps I may have sought some significance in its crossing my path: Was this a warning? Was this (not hitting it) a blessing? Was this something to ponder for some deeper significance?
But none of those things happened tonight. A deer crossed my path --- and was gone, and so were my thoughts of it.
It was easy to put the deer out of my mind, in part, because I have absolutely no control over its actions. Even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t have chosen to hit the deer with my car, any more than I could have chosen to make it my pet. It did cross the path of my life, but I was not in control of it.
I think sometimes the people we meet are like that, but we can’t treat them that way. If people enter our lives for any length of time we think that perhaps they have some purpose for us and/or we for them, and we expect them to act in a certain way as a result of our paths crossing.
We’re surprised when our BFF becomes only a BF, or when our children grow up, or when friends or family move on to another stage of their life --- which no longer includes us, or includes us to some lesser degree. We think they’ve changed, and that upsets us because our lives have changed as a result --- and their actions are beyond our control, even as the deer racing away into the night was beyond mine.
That Liturgy of Humility Prayer I pray each night is hard because it says, in essence, that it is okay if others move on with their lives, if I’m not included, if I’m not respected, if I’m not considered important to them --- as I once was. It even ends with the prayer: “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.”
That is the prayer of humility: that is the life of humility. I want friends. I want to be respected. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to be loved. All those things, however, are dependent on others’ freely-given actions. Regarding others’ actions toward me, my life IS out of control, because they are out of my control.
We often find that hard to accept, our wants from others not being fulfilled, their behaving not as we would wish. Especially among the young these days, not having things their way is a culture shock, and they seek safe havens from their anxieties. But it should be no shock; it has always been this way: the only life and actions I control are mine.
But --- and this is a HUGE but, I can and should influence (not control) others by my actions. I can choose to love God and pray for His graces to influence my actions in a virtuous way. I can freely love others, and be grateful if some love me back; and I can accept that some may not. I can cross the paths of others and can try to be a positive experience in their lives, even if only briefly.
My life is never truly out of my control. I control it with every action I take, and it is how --- the attitude --- with which I take those actions that can change the world, the world I live in. I can act in love. The Gospel and teachings of Jesus have been summarized into one word: love. It is how to live our life, giving love as Jesus did.
Choosing to act with love puts us in control. And not expecting a response, or accepting any which come, calms our anxieties. Today some naively ask the government to take actions to calm their anxieties, but a government cannot love us. We can bring love into our lives; God IS Love. He showed us how to live our lives in loving, and expecting nothing good in return. That’s His eternal reward for us, all the good we could ever want.