I knocked on my neighbor’s door and asked if she would witness my signature on a legal document associated with my mother’s estate. She agreed, and we got it done.
“Thank you so much,” I said on my way out the door. I had less than an hour to scan the document, email a digital copy to the paralegal, and mail the original hard copy before the post office closed for the day.
My good-hearted neighbor must have noticed my harried state because she asked, “How are you doing?”
I teared up. “It’s a lot right now—legal, financial stuff, taxes—and everything’s taking longer with all the disruption. The new puppy isn’t getting along with our older dogs. And I miss my mother terribly.” I stopped to take a breath, knowing I’d crossed into the Land of Self-Pity.
“I’m sorry to burden you,” I said. “Sometimes I get overwhelmed.”
Many of my readers know I start my day with devotionals, including Richard Rohr’s from whom I often quote. In a recent reflection, he noted these five essential truths:
- Life is hard.
- You are not important.
- Your life is not about you.
- You are not in control.
- You are going to die.
The truth I struggle with the most is number four. I want to be in control, and once I go there so go the others. I don’t want life to be hard; I want to be important; I want my life to be about me; I don’t want people to die. When I get overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of what I cannot control, self-pity is one response, but anger is my default. And I can walk around the Land of Self-Righteous Anger for hours. Just ask Keith.
My first husband often said, “Life is hard and then you die.” He was not a person of faith, and neither was I while we were married. In any case, most of us would agree with truths one and five, especially these days. But what strikes me now are two, three, and four.
You are not important. Rohr notes, powerlessness is the beginning of wisdom, the first step for AA and Al-Anon 12-steppers.
Your life is not about you, that is, “Life is not about us, but we are about life. We are not our own. We are an instance of a universal and even eternal pattern. Life is living itself in us.”
You are not in control. Rohr: “For many of us, this may be the first time in our lives that we have felt so little control over our own destiny and the destiny of those we love. This lack of control initially feels like a loss, a humiliation, a stepping backward, an undesired vulnerability. However, recognizing our lack of control is a universal starting point for a serious spiritual walk towards wisdom and truth.”
Here is a prayer from Thomas Merton whose spiritual walk comforts me when I feel overwhelmed. I hope you find comfort, too.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
This post on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jShIFR6H4YQ&feature=youtu.be
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Thank you. You have no idea what a comfort this post is, especially the prayer.🙏🏻
Blessings to you. -C.D.
Wow, wow, wow, wow. Thank you so much! My husband says the same thing as yours. The Merton prayer is my favorite. I feel like you just took my heart right now and wrote it out so I could see it.
My turn to say WOW! What a beautiful comment! Thank YOU so much! -C.D.
Wow, beautifully said. Thank you for sharing. My favorite and eye opening quote, “However, recognizing our lack of control is a universal starting point for a serious spiritual walk towards wisdom and truth.” Amen!
Richard Rohr is an amazing mentor, isn’t he? Thank you for your comment. -C.D.
What gives me peace is knowing that although I am helpless and utterly dependent on God, He is my Helper and utterly dependable.
Thomas Merton’s words at the end reminded me of Proverbs 20:24 “a man’s goings are of the Lord, how can a man then understand his own way?” Enjoy your notes Carole.
Thank you, too. -C.D.
Carole, we all share these moments of feeling overwhelmed right now. Thanks for sharing the wisdom of Richard Rohr. Personally, I need to plug in and recharge with even more frequency.
During the early morning, we experienced the darkness from a series of thunderstorms. Now God has replaced the forbearance of storms with His life-giving sunshine. Amen!
Stay well, Richard. We are not alone. -C.D.
You did well on this post Carole. Heartfelt and touching.
Thank you, Sophia.
We all needed this post. The image that persists with me these days is two-fold. The disciples wake Jesus when they are tossed in a boat by a storm and Jesus replies, “Why are you worried?” Then after the resurrection, these same men are fishing while they wait in Galilee – and catching very little – when they see Christ on the shore . . . preparing breakfast for them. Peter, leaping from the boat with those simple words, “It is the Lord!” The others follow quickly. Our fears take us over so quickly. My prayer is that God’s grace and peace follow quickly to transform our fears into patient, loving hope. Peace to you, S
Ah, thank you, my friend. -C.D.
Wisdom, beauty, and sweet humility in your post, Carole. The Land of Self-Pity (love that choice of words!) lies just around the corner for me too–so easy to find myself there before I’m even aware. Also appreciate that Thomas Merton quote. Will have to copy that!
Thank you, Nancy. Peace be with you. -C.D.
Carole, thank you. A lot of wisdom in this post regarding life and how we are to perceive it, especially in relation to God and to his will and purpose for our lives. There is much peace and security in surrendering to the will of God, especially right now. For, so much right now is truly out of our control. But, God is still in control, and in that we can rest and have hope. Again, thank you. I appreciate this. Love you! Sue
Thank you, Sue. A blessed Easter to you. He is risen.
He is risen, indeed! Thank you, Carole. <3
I agree with four out of five of these “essential truths.” Number 2 is the kind of thing that causes people to stop trying, and not in a good way.
Although I understand the general theme of this piece, that we are weak, helpless, and nothing without God, – we are NOT without God. Although in ourselves we have no value, Jesus GAVE HIS LIFE to save us, and that makes us VERY valuable (important) to Him! Our importance in His eyes should not make us proud or arrogant, but humble, knowing how undeserving we are. Still, we should be prayerfully doing whatever He is calling us to do with a sense of purpose. He wouldn’t have saved us and called us into His service if we weren’t important to His plan!
Agreed, agreed. I think number 2 is about self-centered importance versus God-centered – and in that regard we are VERY important. Loved beyond our imaginations. Thank you, Ann, for your observations and corrections. -C.D.
I didn’t consider it a correction, just a clarification.
I once got pushed out of a ministry I helped found (long story, not worth telling) and was told “You used to be important, you aren’t any more, get over it.” It stung pretty badly until the Lord told me His little secret – I WAS important. <3 (also a long story, involving one of those "coincidences" that aren't random. 😉 )
Oh, I’d love to hear the long story worth telling, the one about coincidences that aren’t.
Needed to hear this. Thank you!
I need to hear it, too, every day.