THERE IS NOT A SINGLE atomic attribute we possess within our humanity able to ensure security. Simply, our ultimate welfare is out of our hands. Our lives sway in the breeze of circumstance. One day we are well, the next bedridden. We tire. Our bodies succumb to sickness. Beyond that, we tangle ourselves in worry until our hearts sag heavy under the weight of life out of our reach. The phone rings and we receive disappointing news. Maybe the news concerns your position at work suddenly gone, your spouse confessing he no longer loves you, a diagnosis set to violate your child’s life. There is an unending myriad of tragedies and difficulties you could attest to. And as quickly as that we find the fragility of life, like that of a dandelion blown by the wind.
All of life is not out of control, of course. There’s a good bit of predictability to our day. This is what we call routine. For the most part, we live by expectations managed by what we’ve scheduled into our phones or computers or family calendars. Days buzz by and pile into weeks and months. Before we know it, we’re quickly celebrating another year’s end and scribbling down goals that aren’t necessarily tied to our reality. Much of life happens as such. But then. Well, difficulty can flood without announcement. Ask the widow. Listen to the grieving parent.
To what specific degree, we rarely know, but one thing is a certainty: life is all but secure.
As one who’s experienced the spiraling depths of loss and the weight of life far too heavy for my own strength to bear, it doesn’t take long for conversations to veer into serious territory. Hushed words and haunted wonderings about the whys of it all. These conversations are shared with friends and newcomers alike who are either in the throes of a difficult stretch of life or reeling in its aftermath. Each of their faces looks the same. Desperate.
Through my own experiences and contemplation, I’ve come to define loss as any occurrence that dislodges us from our held normal. Some losses are small and inconsequential and hardly noticed. Others rattle us so jarringly that we’re never quite the same.
Loss is a universal experience that all of humanity encounters regularly, maybe even daily. For the most part, we can deal, get by with our strength and resilience and recover through our own resourcefulness. It is in those more tragic losses when we find ourselves in a depth far too deep and desperate for life to return to the manageable form and pace we knew that we realize just how helpless we can be. Loved ones die, spouses leave, our healthy bodies are overcome, our sure things fail us.
We are not the captain, only a crewmember. And this is the exact point of indomitable security.
We are not the product of our own doing. Rather, we are part of a narrative much grander than our accumulations of success, achievement and accolade. For there is One Creator – timeless and all-sufficient – who is attentive to each of our days and does not require our given effort in exchange for acceptance. He searches for the lost, those prone to wander off, and dresses the wounds of those bruised and bleeding.
The psalmist invites us to “cast our burdens on the Lord, and He will sustain you.” This regular piling up of all that burdens us is a confession that we are not, in and of ourselves, capable enough to handle all that we encounter in life. But the promise is sure – He will sustain. All you must do is sit across the table from one who has felt life’s sure sting and yet has found the ability to hope again and you will see firsthand God’s ability to sustain.
In God, we discover infinite beginning. Contrarily, when we begin with ourselves as the ultimate source of all we need, we plant ourselves in all that rusts and fades. In loss, we find an ending that is a dead end path if we only focus on inwardly. Every ending needs a restart and must begin with God.
Each morning I wake to speak words, which center my feet on the path. “Lord, thank you for all this day holds.”
I shall say it again in the hope that you remember, we are not the captain.