Control

If you ever thought you were in control of what happens around you, a bathroom remodel project will put an end to that illusion.  The people working on the project at my house are excellent craftsmen and very fine people.  But life doesn’t follow orders from a contractor.  Competent sub-contractors are in demand; I seldom know who is showing up or when they’ll be here—even if they tell me a time.  Planning the rest of my life takes on the same maybe or maybe-not quality.

Trying to be in control simply brings upset and anxiety.  Life works much better by going with the flow and being curious about what will happen.  It can be that the time when people do arrive is actually more advantageous than when they said they would come.

Yesterday at the Contemplative Practices group our song leader introduced us to a new chant, sung in Spanish, based on words from St. Teresa of AvilaNada te turbe, nada te espante.  Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta.  Solo Dios basta.  It presents the opposite of trying to be in control.  Essentially the song says that whoever rests and trusts in God will not be made anxious or upset, and will lack for nothing because God is all that is needed.

I know there are too many people who go to bed hungry, who don’t have money to pay the month’s rent or the electricity bill, who can’t afford medical care, who are running for their lives and have no home.  To be true, Teresa’s words have to be about something more fundamental than basic needs or even survival.  I think she means that God, as the source of Life—its creator and sustainer and redeemer– reaches toward us in Love, in a way that changes everything.  If we can know and receive that Life and Love, we can endure with a kind of peace whatever comes our way.  God alone, and only God, is enough.  We have to have nothing more.

The chant puts my situation in perspective.

Queries:

How does trying to be in control create barriers to God in your life?

How true are Teresa’s words in your experience?

Prayer:

YHWH, the name of God, is unpronounceable.  It is more like the sound of a breath. By breathing in and sounding YH (or Yah), then breathing out and sounding WH (or Weh), you can invite God’s presence and indicate your intent to be open to God.  Repeat the breathing, slow and easy, moving the lips very slightly for as long as you wish to meditate.  You can also do this breathing prayer in moments of tension or upset to turn the situation over to God and allow yourself to be calmed.

For further reflection:

“I am the vine you are the branches.  Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15: 5).

“O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit” (See Psalm 30).

“Trust in the Lord”

When I began the practice of Centering Prayer, the teacher explained that the prayer reflects an intention to consent to the presence and action of God in one’s life. To further explain what we were doing he used the words of Mary when she is told that she is to give birth to a child conceived by the Holy Spirit—“Let it be to me according to Your will.” To say those words—what trust!

They immediately kicked up my distrust. What might God ask of me? What might God do to me? How can I give up control of my life, and why would I want to? Who is God? I thought I believed that God is love. After all, I was taking time to learn to pray in this new way, wasn’t I? And yet . . . I wasn’t certain. I wrestled.

What does it mean to trust in God? It certainly isn’t being passive and letting whatever happens happen. What is God like? I already know that sickness, diminishments, and death are coming. Can I trust God with my life? But if I’m not trusting in God, in whom am I trusting? If I’m trusting in me, how good a bet is that? If I’m trusting in someone else, how safe is that? We are always letting one another down, even those we love the most.

Over the years I have been enabled to trust God at deeper and deeper levels. I do know a felt sense of living in that trust and the peace that comes with it. And yet, even so I find myself over and over acting as if the story depends only on me. “Trust in the Lord, rest in the Lord, abide in the Lord” is a beautiful, chant-like song that Conservative Friend Deborah Shaw taught to a group of which I was a part. The song was simple, but what it invites us to do doesn’t come easy.

Queries:

Where do you place your trust? What stories can you tell of your trust being betrayed or upheld?

What are your questions?

Prayer:

God, hear our prayer. Lord, have mercy.

For further reflection:

Read the story of the healing of Namaan the leper in II Kings 5: 1-14.

“My strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away . . . But I trust in you, O Lord.” (See Psalm 31: 9-24.)