"There is no way to peace. Peace is the way." --A.J. Muste
paradox is that you are more likely to get outcomes when you let go of
getting outcomes: it frees you from the ego's grip." --Parker Palmer in
the Christian Century
"For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who
lose their life for my sake will find it." --Jesus in the Gospel of
The quote above from an
article by Parker Palmer really messes with my head. More than I
probably even realize, I'm all about outcomes. I'll have a vision in my
head of what I want--for my own life or for the church that I serve, and
I'll throw that ultimate goal out into the future. And then, as a
hopelessly left-brained person I will start formulating a plan, which
often involves lots of list making. Then I get busy working "the plan"
to get to the desired outcome. It's almost like a wrestling match--I'm
grappling with my life and circumstances to try to achieve exactly what I
think I want.
This is a very logical way to approach things, of course. Set some
goals, line-up the steps to get there, and then relentlessly work to
accomplish those goals until the desired outcome is achieved.
The thing is, I don't always get there and even when I do, they journey isn't always very enjoyable.
What I hear Palmer saying is that the outcome we project into the
future is less important than the present, less critical than today. In
his case, he's reflecting on his desire to become a writer, which
emerged in his 20's. Rather than focus on an outcome that would "prove"
he'd become a writer--say, getting a book published--instead he simply
spent time every day writing. It was his faithfulness to the daily
discipline of writing that made him a writer because (well "duh!")
writers write. They don't necessarily produce books. It was his faithful
commitment to that daily discipline of writing--irrespective of
outcome--that eventually brought him the outcome he had stopped trying
to achieve--he published a book.
This is true in the life of faith, too. We don't suddenly wake up as
people who perfectly love God, neighbor, and self. If that's the
outcome we desire, if the goal of the Christian life is to be made
perfect in love (a very Methodist phrase), then our task is to try to
love God, neighbor, and self the very best that we can--TODAY. And then
we do it again the next day, and the next day, and the next day. And,
eventually, by God's grace we just may discover that we have come very
close to the outcome we stopped trying to grasp at in the first place.
As Palmer says, somewhat negatively, "the faith journey is less about
making a big leap of faith than it is about putting one faithless foot
in front of the other, and doing it again and again. What happens as you
walk that way is sometimes transformed by grace."
I pray that as you open your hands to let go of predetermined
outcomes, God's grace will guide you, day by day, in the direction that
will bring you life, and life abundant.