Liberal religion has always emphasized the tremendous power human beings have to shape their reality. And we shape reality not just with our actions, but with our expectations. We know that if you expect people to be good, they will likely rise to the task. If you have faith in your plans, opportunities will likely appear.
Sometimes we UU’s can get so focused on shaping reality, taking hold of life, that we can lose the spiritual skill of allowing life to hold us. And there’s a lot at stake in being able to do both.
Consider these words from a poem by Philip Booth called First Lesson. In it, he tells his daughter,
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island,…
remember… what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.
What are your expectations of this sacred but stormy sea in which we all swim? Do you have faith that this wildly unpredictable life of ours won’t lead you astray? When your expectations get turned on their head, do you see that as a threat or are you willing to lean in? To what extent are you willing to let life’s currents lead you where they will?
This isn’t just about whether or not we trust life; it’s also about how willing we are to loosen our grip and let our preferred–and especially our unspoken, unconscious–expectations go.
That kind of letting go doesn’t come easily to anyone. And so we sometimes need prayers like this one by Michael Leunig:
God give us rain when we expect sun.
Give us music when we expect trouble.
Give us tears when we expect breakfast.
Give us dreams when we expect a storm.
Give us a stray dog when we expect congratulations.
God play with us, turn us sideways and around.
Those holy disruptions force our hand. They break our grip. Only then can we recognize what is holding us.
So bring on those unruly dogs and unpredictable tears. Let the rain disrupt our forecasts of sun. May Life indeed turn us sideways and around and lead us unexpectedly but safely home!