luck is what you make of it, says the teacher.

I’m working very hard to practice meditation daily.  The good thing about being incredibly busy is that it forces me to prioritize.  Where I once was lax about meditation (who needs to make it a priority when there are all of these HOURS I can squeeze it into?) or exercise (hey, there’ll be time tomorrow, I don’t need to push it to the front of the agenda) or spending time with the kids (we’re around each other ALL THE TIME, why be intentional?) when time becomes scant, every second gets doled out like it is made of gold.  Here are the minutes for the kids, for exercise, for meditation, here are these precious minutes and I must let them linger on my tongue like fine wine.  Here they are.  These ones.

In my World Lit class we somehow wandered off on a rabbit trail, talking about what makes a person “lucky” or “privileged” or “the right person for the right time.”  My teacher said that luck is what you make of it.  Luck, she said, is ultimately how you choose to be aware of and take advantage of your experiences.  Everyone may walk by the same dollar on the street, what makes someone “lucky” is being aware of it.  Everyone may talk to the same business man at a party, but what makes the investor “lucky” is cultivating that relationship.  Sometimes even the worst experiences may be “lucky” if you are the sort of person who makes yourself lucky.  A bad accident may lead to an early stage cancer being caught, for instance.  Unemployment may let you write that novel.  Luck, then, is a state of being in the same way that awareness is.  Luck is a choice in the sense that we all label or own experiences, we can label ourselves as lucky if we view ourselves in a positive light.

I am choosing to focus on awareness and cultivate it in myself.  I am choosing to label my experiences as fortunate.  I am choosing to cultivate relationships.

Sometimes bad things happen, but I choose not to label my life as “bad.”

The past few days I’ve been slammed with being busy, but the funny thing is that in all of that I feel things have gone better than they’ve gone in a long time.  I’ve been deliberate about taking control and not resenting the things I have to sacrifice in return.  Little things, like groceries coming under budget, pile up and it feels like mounds of blessings amidst the insanity.  It’s strange, how being deliberate about being in charge of your life can bend something from feeling like a curse to being a blessing.  It’s like the difference between choosing to run a marathon and being chased by a murderer in the night.  But of them are about being in a race, but only one of them feels like a death sentence.

But our entire life is like that- we all have to go through more or less the same motions and emotions.

But how do we attribute them?  What label do we paste on everything that happens around us?  Do we choose to be lucky?  Do we cultivate the behaviors of luckiness, the awareness and relationships and attitude?

Or do we treat every single challenge as if it is a murderer bursting into our home, and constantly cover our eyes and wail about our unluckiness as we walk right by the twenty dollar bill in the gutter?

I’ve written a note to myself that I have to look at every now and then to remind me of the choices I want to make.  It says, “this is the life you are living.  You are not passive.  It doesn’t happen to you, you happen to everyone else.”

There was a time I allowed myself to feel like a victim.  I gained 50 pounds and moved across the country and did my fair share of wailing, and it really did feel like everything I cared about was wrenched out of my arms.  That’s what happens when you would rather be backed into a brick wall than listen to what the spirit is saying to you.  That’s not my life anymore.  I could be supplicant and pray and cry and get all legalistic and feel owed a better life, but what would change?  I’d become more of a jerk and I’d still have everything wrenched away from me routinely while the universe worked on getting my attention.

So it goes.

Hi-ho.

Or, I can choose to be lucky.  I can be open and aware and understanding, and cultivate the now-barren places in my life in expectation of finding seeds.  I find, as I am more aware, that seeds are small but all around me.  My life just needs time right now.

Time that I can treasure to the second, and dole out carefully.  Time I can choose to be aware of.  Time that I am not a victim of.

I’m lucky, guys.  I’m lucky.

 

Total Control.

To get to where I go I need to start somewhere else, so bear with me.

Now.  I believe that people have a great deal more control over their lives than they are willing to exercise.  Take, as an example, a person who is working in a job where they are forced to carry a far greater load than they can handle over a long period of time.  So daily they come home exhausted, with the realization that if this carries on indefinitely they will burn out.  They feel trapped, helpless.  But are they really trapped?  Are they really helpless?  They have the option to go to their boss and explain that the workload is unreasonable and that if the situation remains the same they will eventually burn out and have to leave the job.  Might this result in them being suddenly fired?  Well, sure, but there’s the possibility of a good outcome.  Their boss may believe that they are fully capable of handling the workload or it wouldn’t all be getting managed.  Their boss may concede.  And what if they ARE fired?  Is it so much worse to be fired now, while still feeling some modicum of control, than to burn out a year later and have to find a new job while feeling lost, dejected, and incapable?

So control yourself.

But I also have an issue with the idea that we can control EVERYTHING.  I have heard people be commanded to control their temptations.  Control their sexuality.  Control their family.  Control everything.  As if the moment we become Christians we are not only imbued with the power to achieve that which God has birthed in us, but that we have become little gods ourselves.

This is unfair.

I am married to a man I love entirely.  And I want to be with no other man.  But that does not mean that the second I married, I ceased any and all attractions to any persons other than my husband.  Do I control my response to these attractions?  Yes.  Absolutely.  But I have been attracted, and I have had to exercise control.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we are now freed from temptation.  The power given to us is power to resist temptation, not to cease it.  So how is it reasonable to tell a gay person to just… become straight?  I have always struggled with fits of despair and dark depression.  Every period of sudden change in my life has also been marked with bloody nightmares, crying jags, and feelings of intense insufficiency.  Does the power of God help me to soldier through?  Make me capable of pulling myself out?  Give me the strength to resist the temptation to be utterly ruled by em0tion?  Absolutely.  But here’s the thing:  I wouldn’t be feeling God’s power in my life if I wasn’t facing temptation.

Think about it.

Control

The only person you control is yourself.  This seems like a fairly simple concept to grasp.  Your brain is in your body, it sends impulses, your body reacts.  The chemicals that inspire emotion run between your synapses.  The thoughts, the hopes, the spirit, they are all in your temple.  So of course you are you and you are in control of yourself, ultimately.

And no one else.

But yet we so often act as if we have divine power over others.  There are phases of life in which this becomes stronger.  Any young pregnant lady can attest to the fact that even random strangers on the street act as if they should have some sort of control over her.  They ask personal questions, are offended if rebuffed.  They do not say “have you considered…?” but instead word things as, “you must [do this]” and “you certainly have to [do that]”- as if a random stranger has earned the right to make commands.

Parents in the public square with their children also face it.  A child talks back, a stranger reprimands them.  A child starts to cry, all eyes turn.  Strangers offer up advice.

But it is not always strangers who attempt to exert power.  Ever seen a group of people examining a car engine?  Person 1 says to person 2, “it’ll be the belt.”  Person three says, “Oh, what a noob, it’ll be the hose.”  They then order around whichever person is actually getting their hands dirty.  They wager, they bicker, they threaten.  Eventually the problem is sussed out (generally neither a belt or a hose) and everyone states how had their (wrong) opinion been respected, things would have gone better.

Now let’s get very serious.  Look at relationships.  Everyone is very free with advice about how to make relationships work, myself included.  But when it comes to close friendships, dating and marriage, it’s always down to two people.  And eventually, one.  It’s all about one person’s choices, and how that one person feels about them.  Yet the larger world just LOVES to give advice and loves to mock, harangue, and belittle when said advice isn’t taken.  It’s very easy as an outsider to say, “but she’s controlling and manipulative!  Leave!” but an outsider doesn’t know what goes on behind closed doors or the real truth of their relationship.  It’s easy for an outsider to say, “but when he does that he’s being abusive!”, and perhaps it’s true, he is being abusive.  But we have no real power to make someone else leave when they don’t want to.

And you certainly can’t make someone just change.  If someone did come up with a method to snap their fingers and invoke change, they’d become a millionaire in a millisecond.  We all have things about each other we want to change.  We all have patterns in other people we want erased.  We all want our opinion, our advice, our knowledge verified by someone else respecting it.  We all spend such ridiculous amounts of time focused on trying to get our little fingers into other people’s business.

And somewhere along the way, we forget that we control ourselves.  We forget that we do things that are stupid, too.  We make bad choices about our bodies, our children, our relationships.  We forget that when the engine grease is on our own fingers sometimes our instincts are bad.  We forget that we sometimes behave in the most childish of ways, or the most hopelessly romantic, or the most foolishly submissive.  We forget that like all other people, we can control ourselves but we so often forget to.

This world is a crazy place.  It’s nice to feel as if we’ve got some power over our immediate surroundings, people included.  But we must remember the fact that it’s all of those people asserting their own power that makes it such a crazy world.  So embrace the insanity around you, if you will, and just control your self.

Is God in Control?

Most Christians have had this experience. They are going through a hard time. Perhaps they’ve just been diagnosed with a chronic illness, or a family member is dying, or they have suddenly lost a job, or they are feeling like their life is in limbo… When another well-meaning Christian puts a hand on their shoulder and says with conviction:

“Take heart. God is in control.”

How true is that statement, really? The Bible seems to tell conflicting tales. The Israelites went through extraordinary periods of being in God’s grace and out of it, from persecution to exile to return to God’s promise to exile to persecution to return, and the Old Testament blames this cycle not on God’s lack of power but the fickle hearts of the Israelites themselves. Thus causing Christians in this day and age to often blame the struggles we face on either our own fickleness or the sins of our forefathers.

Is that fair?

The New Testament also tells the story of the man blind from birth. When asked whose sin resulted in the mans blindness, Christ replied that it was so that God’s glory could be shown. Which causes Christians in this day to ask, “am I being tried for my sins or is this simply to show God’s glory?”

Is THAT fair?

There’s also the fallen nature of our world. In the Old Testament when Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, not only were they and their offspring cursed, but the labor of their hands and the fruit of the earth and even the insects and animals were cursed. Which causes Christians to ask, “am I simply a victim of the fallen nature of this planet?”

What is true? Is God in control, and do we shun his control with our own hard hearts? Is he in control and he allows us to suffer to later demonstrate his glory? Is the world simply still under the curse of sin and death, and we are victims of it?

Wait… there’s Christ, right, so the curse is broken, isn’t it? Well, it may be broken for you and I but not the entire planet- right? God’s Kingdom hasn’t come, has it?

But we are here, we are faithful, we are bringing the Kingdom… so isn’t God in control?

And the logic circles onward, and the logic circles inward, and like at the end of CS Lewis’s The Last Battle we must answer the call to follow further up and further in. All I know is that I trust my own heart and life are in God’s hands, and he is as in control of my own faith as much as I will allow him to be. And I do have hope, as foolish and pointless as it may be, I still have hope. I believe that I will see God’s love in my life, I believe that as bleak and hopeless as it all may seem I will experience joy. I believe it because I have seen God’s faithfulness in my own life. Not that my life has been “blessed” or “fortuitous”, far from it. But has God been there? Without a doubt.

Was God in Control?

I don’t know. But he was there.

So next time you feel the urge to extend a hand of comfort, next time you feel the religious conviction in your voice, pause for a moment and pick your words with care. Perhaps we shouldn’t throw out the words “God is in control” so carelessly. Instead, I choose to say,

God is with you. So am I.