Sunday, May 19, 2013

Allowing for Possibility

I have a nasty habit of trying to prepare myself for the worst.  "Expect the worst and you won't be disappointed."  My dear husband has tempered this habit in me by reminding me that until I KNOW the worst, I should enjoy the possibility of wonderful outcomes.  But I seem hell-bent on protecting myself from a great fall by psyching myself down and emphasizing realistic, often pessimistic, likelihoods.

When I was younger, I didn't handle rejection and disappointment particularly well.  I am someone who has what we in third grade refer to as "big feelings."  So, my reactions would often be out of all proportion with reality.  I would see something small as the end of the world.  I still struggle with this.  So it's understandable that, to contradict this tendency toward melodrama, I developed the habit of talking myself through possible  disappointment in advance in order to lessen the blow.

However.  However.  However.

However what?  Well, when you cultivate a habit of expecting the worst and preparing for the worst, sometimes you forget that your wildest dreams may still be possible.  You fail to allow for the possibility of wonderful, remarkable success.

This weekend, after spending a week preparing myself for the worst, I sat down and found myself experiencing the best.  The wildest dreams scenario.  I can't share the details just yet, since my pessimist still believes I might curse the next steps.  But whatever happens next, this weekend I experienced the best of all possible outcomes on something and it left me stunned.  Stunned at the realization of the possible.  Stunned by the reminder that possibilities include that which is wonderful, not just that which is disappointing or difficult.  I hope I can carry that realization with me and remember possibility.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

God and Parenthood

It being Mother's Day and all, I was thinking about that tricky balance all parents must struggle to attain, the balance between loving unconditionally and setting limits, maybe even providing the occasionally necessary swift metaphorical kick in the tush.  As a teacher, I have this same struggle - when and how to strike the balance between supportive loving encouragement and forceful demanding expectations.  I believe both are essential to a person's healthy development, yet both can go too far.

Loving unconditionally doesn't mean being a doormat and it doesn't mean endless permissiveness either.  Tough love doesn't mean brutality, nor does it mean the denial of love or a constant questioning and challenging.  It's way too easy to go too far in one direction or the other.  Most of us humans aren't so good at balance, finding the happy medium.  Maybe that's why having two parents helps.  We can balance each other, rather than attempting to achieve that harmony within one flawed person.  Of course, in our efforts to find the balance, sometimes we end up playing good-cop-bad-cop.

This brings me to God and parenthood.  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we talk a lot about God the father.  But really I think we should talk about God the parent, since there are mothering and fathering aspects to God.  Likewise, the Bible seems to have examples of both a God who demonstrates the unconditional love of a parent and a God who demonstrates the tough and demanding aspects of parenting.  The struggle to understand how these two sides could coexist is often at the heart of our own human struggles to understand God.  Maybe that's because finding the balance between these things in our own lives is so very hard.

 Perhaps in clinging to the unconditionally loving God a little too much, I have failed to understand that necessary tough love aspect.  I wonder if any of us truly manages to understand the tough love side of our parents until we become parents ourselves.

Today, on Mother's Day, I find myself ruminating on this.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Using God to Shame and Blame

I learned recently that my old high school has had 3 students die unexpectedly this year.  One was found hanged.  One jumped off a garage.  One "died unexpectedly."  All were athletes.  After reading about this disturbing news, I saw some of the comments attached to the post.  There were a string of comments about "This is why we need God back in our schools."  I was beyond puzzled by this line of thinking.  Would you say this to the families of the kids who are dead?  "If you had God in your lives, this wouldn't have happened."  This response makes me angry.  It is a callous response.  It is a self-righteous response.  It is a response devoid of love, compassion, empathy.  How in the name of all that is holy could this ever be considered a Godly response?

In a way, this is the Christian spin on the destructive thinking espoused by Deepak Chopra's THE SECRET.  "If you visualize positive outcomes and you think positively, good things will happen to you."  The corollary, of course, is that if bad things happen to you, it's your fault.  It's because you weren't positive enough, you didn't visualize enough, you weren't Godly enough.

Step into reality.  Bad things sometimes happen to good people.  That fact is probably one of the greatest stumbling blocks on the road towards faith.  To deny that fact, or imply that the answer is simply that those people weren't good enough or faithful enough, is beyond offensive.  It is cruel and hurtful and just plain false.

Who are we to measure what constitutes the right amount and form of God in our schools or anywhere else?  What makes us think we are so powerful that we can control our world through our prayers or thoughts?  We can't.  There is a great deal in this world beyond our control.  Recognizing that fact requires humility.  True humility.  The same humility that is required to accept that some aspects of God are unknowable from the vantage point of human life on earth.