Today in the Men’s Breakfast I lead we talked about our career paths and what led us to our church. In the course of the conversation we talked about the “Invisible Hand” that in retrospect seemed to be leading us even when we were cluelessly making decisions or trusting our gut. For some of us part of that path was leaving safety and familiarity for parts unknown.
The conversation reminded me of this post I wrote long ago about an unfolding of one part of my ministerial path. Can you relate to anything like this? Have you experienced a clear path or was the unfolding laced with mystery?
After posting my last blog, This Functional Family, I kept thinking about how life plays out. I wondered if I ever had a choice in this role I am playing. I mean, even after all of my resistance, here I am doing what so many said I would do. Was this always how it was supposed to be? Doesn’t the Bible portray God as telling Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”? I’m telling you it is confusing sometimes. Sometimes it feels like it is possible to shape what happens and then sometimes it feels like things are lined up in a certain way and my job is to learn how to live in alignment with what is so that I can experience joy or I can resist what is and suffer through the experience that I am going to have anyway. It’s like there is a script and if I live in the present, sometimes I get to see some of the script in advance. However, if I am focusing my attention on the past or the future then all I get to do is walk around clueless and stressed. It is as if the only free will there is is how I choose to experience the inevitable. It’s like that metaphor with Jonah and the big fish. I can run but I can’t hide. I can set sail for one place and still will end up where I was meant to be, Nineveh Style. It’s like the whole Book of Life is already written and on some level I agreed to it before I was even formed in the womb.
Speaking of written (smooth transition huh?), as I was walking out of a convenience store today, I passed a DVD rack that held a copy of the movie Slumdog Millionaire–a great movie if you haven’t seen it. It’s about a boy and his destiny. Ultimately, the theme of the movie is a single question, “Is it written?” referring to fate, karma, destiny, etc. Throughout the movie you watch all of these events in the boy’s past unfolding until it brings him to the moment he is in as a contestant on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? who is suspected of cheating. As the story unfolds, you get the sense that everything is meant to be. All of the events in his life led up to this moment where he gets to see just how much order there is in the apparent chaos of life.
Like the boy, most of us might not see this order all of the time, but every once in a while we get those glimpses and we see how things came together. That’s what I was talking about when I wrote about getting that picture of my dad after I graduated and feeling like I was just destined to become a minister and that what sometimes looked like family dysfunction was actually part of the minister set up. It was like by not taking his shot at being a minister my dad did an alley-oop for me.
What I didn’t mention in the last post, was that one day in meditation soon after starting seminary, I saw myself giving the commencement address. Well, what I actually saw were the faces of my friend Holly who started school with me, a guy I had just met named Lance (who I actually thought would do the speech as the years went on), and Sam Larason, another new friend. They were dressed in graduation robes. I realized that rather than seeing them from the side, like a fellow graduate, I was seeing their faces head on. My first thought was that I was going to go to their graduation, but that I was not going to make it myself because I would have successfully quit by then. But then another thought occurred to me. “Why was I seeing their faces instead of the backs of their heads?” I then asked myself the question, “Am I giving the commencement address?”
For some reason I wrote the question down. My wife saw it and asked me if that was my goal. I told her no, but that I just saw it in my meditation, and was curious about it. After that, I pretty much forgot about it. It had gone so far into the recesses of my mind, that it wasn’t until yesterday (June 11, 2013) that I discovered that I also wrote it down in a journal that I haven’t seen in two years. I even forgot I had the journal. The journal was a gift was from my good friends Jim and Liz Sullivan who I happened to work for at their company, JCSI Corporate Staffing. They were awesome about me going in this new direction in life and gave me the journal to track where I was headed. I came across it as we were trying to get rid of stuff we don’t use. Since, I had only written on about twenty pages, I decided to just read through it a bit and this is what I found.
The fact is that, I didn’t “do” anything in order to be asked to speak. I didn’t even know how the person was selected until I got the call. But it happened. In the past few weeks since graduating and trying to discern next steps, I am trying to strike a balance between the idea of what is “written” in the destiny sense and what I’m supposed to write in the “work out your own salvation” sense. But all I’ve really come up with is that I need to live in the question. Perhaps we live in a “set it and forget it” Universe where you put an intention out there and then the script gets written if we get out of the way. Or maybe the script was written before the Universe itself. Maybe it’s both. All I know for sure is that I’m going to start writing in that journal again.