“The great mysteries of life—love, suffering, evil, death, beauty—do not need to be figured out to in order to be engaged. But they must be befriended if the encounter is to be nurturing to the spirit.” –Soulful Spirituality
I haven't had a life plan in over a year; I’ve had no idea where I am supposed to live, what my work should be, or how I ought to even spend my isolated days. Doors closed strangely that should have been opened, so I continued living in the mountains all alone, watching the seasons change, driving my old beat-up Expedition.
I savor controlling, planning and predicting, but instead I have been living by the whim of mystery and the unknown.
Typical me would have made a plan just to make a plan, but my planning had gone so wrong of late, and I was forced to let go and wait on the Lord.
It is interesting what has happened ever since I released control and started wading around in mystery; I’ve had the most fulfilling and productive year of my life. As September marked my one-year anniversary of the ‘EJ no plan land,’ I started thinking that releasing and waiting actually held the keys to fullness of life.
I have been reading a book by David Benner called Soulful Spirituality, which tackles the struggle of being fully human yet living spiritually, and learning to surrender to the unknown mystery and make ourselves vulnerable to the wonder that mysteries slowly reveal.
"Mystery is the enemy of those with the insatiable need for explanation and control, but a friend to those living in the thrall of wonder.” –Soulful Spirituality
In reality, none of us are in control. We can only create the semblance of control.
There is no certainty that I will even take another breath. Not only do we have no control, we also have no way of fully knowing or understanding what is beyond us. We can pray, predict and estimate, but there are gifts awaiting us that cannot be calculated and if we are too rigid in our plan, we might actually miss the gift all together.
I have experienced gifts from the Lord disguised as loss, pain, deferred hope, dying dreams. At the time it was hard to see the blessing or the gift in them. Last year, I was so stuck on saving myself and my story in the way that I thought it should be told that the Lord had to hit me over the head for me to realize that my life crumbling was a gift. I had worked so hard to save that life and I fought the gift of everything crashing around me.
Finally, I released to the crumble; I gave into the mystery and sank into the unknown waters of letting the Lord carry me month by month, week by week, and sometimes day by day, moment by moment.
I had to release my grip in order for my hands to be open to receive the fullness of life. Where he led me was far greater than my original path or plan.
One of the most puzzling mysteries to me is how love and suffering, beauty and pain can be woven into the same cloth, flow from the same fountain, be part of the same magnificent story.
How can loss give way to receiving, suffering usher strength, disappointment demand revelation, pain nurture beauty, and brokenness give way to health?
These are mysteries that make up the human story. There can’t be a story or triumph without the lows of the valley or the dark night of the soul.
The beauty and love I am experiencing in my life now is far richer because of the pain and brokenness I have walked through. Light in my life is so much brighter when contrasted with the darkness I experienced.
In order to experience this beauty from pain, pain has to be encountered and engaged and it cannot be ignored.
It has to be embraced as a friend in the mystery that is unfolding in each of our lives. I wish I had embraced the pain, the shame, the dark parts of me sooner and accepted them as part of the journey not yet known. Instead I ignored those dissipated parts of my soul, pushed them away thinking they would destroy me, when instead they were the key to finding the beauty and love. Not just finding, but being able to receive and enjoy the wonder of mystery humbly as a gift.