When life doesn’t turn out the way we thought…

At fifty I have to admit that I’m well into my mid-life crisis. Three kids, all grown, two beautiful grandchildren, one wife. All in all it’s been quite the mid-century moment to pause and reflect on. I’ve been blessed beyond measure and I’ve suffered along the way, just like you.

Life is sometimes spectacularly good and sometimes it is spectacularly hard. Both our gains and losses add up, they point us to something in-between satisfaction and shame. Family, career, and friends, all enter the equation and for most of us, things haven’t turned out quite the way we thought.

I bet you have a similar story. Different name, place, and circumstances, but a familiar pattern of highs and lows. It’s the great tapestry of our choices,  the sum of our moments captured for our faulty memories to retain.

Why does it so often feel like ‘failure’? Why do we add it all up and find ourselves wondering what happened? What about our hopes and dreams? Where did the future go and how did we get so far from our objectives? Life isn’t turning out the way I thought. 

For the Christian, it’s a struggle to resist the defeated sense of being ‘less than’ we should be. For the unbeliever it’s someone else’s fault, ever the victim of the ‘other’ person, thing, or group pitted against us.

Both feelings I believe to be correct. We are less than we should be and there is a strategic foe plotting our demise.

Where does our faith enter this equation? Are we just flawed in our understanding of it all? Are we missing the big picture of God’s providential plan… or is there just no plan for us? 

Lots of hard questions that need answers. I’ve had a year to reflect on some of this stuff, twelve months to slow my mind and rest my heart. I can’t explain all I feel but here’s a start.

  1. God is in the smallest of details. He is there. Very close in fact. He is gentle, patient, and full of love. We look for the ‘big’ moments for Him to show up, to reveal His awesome majesty to us… a Moses on the mountain moment. Not for me, instead He’s with me on my daily commute, He sits in the living room when I look through the choices for the evening’s entertainment. He whispers to me when I fall asleep and lingers in my dreams when I wake. Yet we can grow ever frustrated when He doesn’t give us the quick fixes. He may not cure our cancer, fix our spouses flaws or win the lottery for us. But He’s there. I’m learning to pay closer attention.
  2. Faith is flawed on our side of eternity. Our desire to ‘get it right’ isn’t enough. We can only go so far before we fall down and we can only rise so high before we loose sight of the ground. In both extremes our pride finds a way to express itself when we least expect. We are flawed and so is our faith, we only have the strength to get back up and follow the one whose faith never failed. I had to learn to stop watching my own spiritual mirror, instead I have to look at the cross, that’s the real source of strength.  I’m learning to quit bumming about my shortcomings and start humming about His perfection, that’s the only way out and the only way forward.
  3. Peace is possible if we choose to let go of our control. God never guaranteed a ‘better’ life than our neighbor, friend, or foe. What He does promise is His presence and peace. No matter what, He won’t leave or forget you. His proximity makes all the difference, knowing you’re following the only one with the answers, the only one with a plan, that brings strength when nothing makes sense. My strongest advice, let Him have control.

These nuggets of wisdom I’ve gleaned from the past twelve months in the great Northwoods of Maine. There are more details than I can share here, but these three reveal much about my journey, my process.

Photo by Roberto Shumski from Pexels

What about you? Have you allowed yourself to reflect and consider where you’ve been, where you’re at… where you’re headed? It takes courage and humility to face your own life.

Life can begin to feel pretty depressing if you lose you’re way. Life can feel more and more like failure if you forget where you’re going. If you forget that you don’t really belong here, its not our final destination. It’s essential for us to regain and retain our spiritual compass as we journey on, if we don’t, we’ll start to go in circles, lost, frustrated, angry, and ashamed. 

God in His mercy provides the moments we need to recapture our first love. He knows what we need to recover our spiritual breath (ruach). He knows the air gets thinner the higher we go and He knows we need to remember the goal. We’re not meant to stay here, we’re not meant to make sense of the senseless things in life, He knows we were meant for more.

Dear Christian, don’t you dare stop climbing now. I’ve heard the view ahead is simply too spectacular to miss.

Peace out,

Father Brad.

bam567@msn.com

 

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