This is a personal post. Turn back now if you don’t want to go there. However, I’m talking with many people — at all stages of life — who share my experience. Perhaps this will strike a chord. You see, I once had a plan for my life. Or should I say, my life has been a notebook full of plans. At each turn in my existence, I had a clear idea of what I would be and where I would go and when I would reach certain milestones. Now I’m hearing new voices.
(photo credit: Kalen Emsley/unsplash.com)
My latest life plan, the one that is now stuffed in a back pocket of that notebook, was to finish out my career in place and continue to serve in those comfortable spots I had already found. By that I mean, I would just do what I’ve been doing for the past 16 years, slowing slightly, and then quietly exiting. But then I heard new voices in vocation.
Those new voices have planted a challenge to do exciting things with a renewed purpose, as well as the elements needed to make those things happen. The new voices I’m hearing about my vocation are strong, encouraging, and clear.
My life plan is missing, though.
There is a chilling quietness from the voices that speak to the rest of my life. I’m not lost. I’m not without direction. I just haven’t begun to listen for or hear the new voices — the voices about personal things and spiritual things. Because of the emerging plans at work, personal and spiritual life has been disrupted. Not shattered, but disrupted.
How about you? Do you long for new voices? Do you feel you’ve become mired in what has been and do you long for what will be? Are you drifting just a bit?
From some good mentors, I believe I am beginning to hear the whispers of what will be strong new voices. Let me share what they’re saying — just in case you’re straining to hear as I am.
- Spend most of your energy listening.
Although I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked to be quiet over the past six decades, I’m confident that I have rarely taken that advice to heart. Be quiet. Experience the peace that comes when you watch the river calmly flow past.
- Dwell on good things . . . about people, about your position in life, about your future.
There’s more than enough of these to keep you occupied and thankful.
- Fill your time with meaningful and valuable activities.
Whenever possible, be with family and friends — listening and sharing. (For my fellow introverts, spend a little time scheduling your alone-times. There’s time enough for everything. We often use the excuse of our introversion to avoid what we may need the most.) Read good books. Watch worthwhile media. Sing along with uplifting songs. Take walks. Pray . . . a lot.
- Don’t despair over what you don’t know.
Anxiety is simply the fear of what hasn’t happened yet. Let go. Find the next best step for you to take and joy in knowing it’s there.
- Be hesitant to give advice.
(I hope you smile a bit as you think about the irony here.) Instead, ask questions. Not as cross-examination, but as a curious friend. What will you do next? How are feeling? Why do you think that (whatever “that” is) happened?
Let time, let God, do what time and God do.
I am confident that a new life plan is emerging — both for me and for you. And I’m blessed that your life plan will make mine better.
There is a moment almost every day when I pause. Calm is about me. My mind is clear. And then, suddenly, but not without warning, I am pushed into the busy current of life and I see so much rushing by. Most often my urge to join that stream of action propels me forward in my life’s plan. But sometimes, whether from panic or a realization of how little energy reserve is available, I’m simply pulled out and away, another victim of a rip tide.
I know full well what I should do. Not unlike the strategies of a swimmer facing the strong fingers of an ocean’s rip tide, I should keep my head, check my bearings, and move in parallel with the path of intention I was suddenly snatched from. At some point, I will leave the influence of those things rushing by and be able to focus on where I should be and what I should be doing.
Too often these emotional and practical rip tides of the soul tear us away from what we know and what nurtures us in such a violent way that we lose hope of ever finding our way back. When those times come, when we feel ourselves pulled into the boiling sea of worry, anxiety, and busyness, we should take a momentary detour to realign ourselves with the shoreline where we can stand and navigate freely.
And, when our personal will and resolve are spent, we should take the hands of those who reach out to pull us to safety . . . if, for no other reason, to deepen our opportunity to be the one reaching out tomorrow.
When times get tough, we often turn to the words of a poet or a balladeer to give us hope, to soothe our angst, and sometimes, to crank us up. Many paint only a picture of an ideal. . . in essence, a dream. John Lennon gave us that in “Imagine.” Imagining away religion, patriotism, hunger and competition seemed to smooth away all of the ugliness of the world. After all, “with nothing to kill or die for” we certainly would live better lives, wouldn’t we? Imagine such a world as that.
image: Jean-Frederic Fortier/unsplash.com
If I’ve just trashed your favorite song of all time, please stay with me for a minute.
In the later verses of the song, John Lennon writes of bringing the world together and sharing the wealth of the world. While we can dream of a time when that would happen, the writer makes it unlikely by entrusting that exercise to humankind without a higher power.
A dream of that magnitude requires a vision and definite action. While dreams can burn softly like candles, only true vision fueled by process can ignite the fires that bring change and progress. Our prolific Beatle has a point here. Too often, action and progress, framed only in mortal idealism, give way to greed, lust, and attempts at domination. Imagine if there was none of that.
But that same action and progress, when formed in the image of One who is greater, brings about what Lennon is really seeking . . . Heaven on earth.
Imagine walking side by side with that One. Imagine sharing and building together. Imagine loving each other as God loves each of us. At the very least, it gives us something to “die for.”
Rarely a day goes by that I don’t find myself in a conversation with someone who has no idea of what I’m talking about. It’s all about context, you see. OK. Sometimes it’s about my inability to communicate clearly. But most of the time it’s about context. Our phases of life just don’t match up.
It’s disheartening sometimes to mention a song, or a movie, or a book — or a President! — and have the other person look back at you with a puzzled expression. I sometimes inwardly groan as I anticipate how hard it will be to bring this person to my level of experience.
But then I think “I don’t have to.” Each of these good folks have their own phases of life to look forward to. Looking back at mine is not something they need to invest in. And, to a large extent, it’s really not something I need to invest in.
We all have a chance to live our phases. We can only imagine what those times will bring.
A recent glance at my website confirmed something I already knew. I haven’t been writing much lately. It’s time for me to get back in the saddle.
Photo credit: Wagner’s Saddle and Tack
All of that cowboy lingo aside, I have been missing my time sorting through my various misadventures and grand schemes and then capturing them here on my website.
And, I have fallen victim to massive software failures and a nefarious attack by hackers — or at least their evil autobot programs. But now, thanks to new and professional security mechanisms, I’m back up and running. Hopefully, I have also cleaned up the mess left behind by the hackers.
I am also throwing aside all good advice about website management and bringing my PeaceBytes.org content over to this site. It will take me a while to get that done. I’m hopeful I can salvage the domain names and get all of the newsletter pieces sorted through. In the meantime, please feel free to let me know when things aren’t working well for you.
Bottom line, I’m hoping to write more . . . and soon.
By the way, I specifically chose the mule picture. I can be a bit stubborn, too. Thanks for your patience!