I woke up this morning feeling vulnerable. Images of the horrible cyclone devastation in Madagascar played in my mind. As did the unprovoked violence, destruction and death in Ukraine. So, too, the horrible car accident that happened near our house last night. Not to mention the devastating tornado in Iowa.
All reminders that life – as I know it – can be changed in an instant. That I am not in control. That I cannot protect myself or others from pain, suffering, loss or death.
As I walked down our backcountry roads this past week, I was acutely aware of the gift it is to be able to do so. As I listened to the birds singing, cranes bugling and cows mooing, my heart wept for the people of Ukraine. Rather than birdsong, they are listening to the sound of gunfire and explosion.
All of which has made me feel grateful. And, sometimes, GUILTY.
It was the same mix of feelings I felt in the early months of COVID when the entire world was in upheaval and lockdown. When people were dying at rapid rates. When fear gripped us all. When businesses shut down and people lost jobs and income.
Through all of that, so much of my life was untouched and unchanged. During long walks that year, I was comforted by the continuity of Life I saw in Creation. When it seemed as if life had stopped for so many – I could see and experience how it hadn’t.
Birds were still singing. Trees were still blossoming. Grass was turning green. And the cows were still gorging on that grass – and watching me curiously as I walked by. LOL!
I asked in 2020 and I asked again this week…
“Why is my life relatively unchanged when the lives of so many are in total upheaval?”
“Why do I still have a roof over my head, water to drink and food to eat when so many do not?”
“Why can I still enjoy something as simple as taking a long walk when others cannot?”
“Who am I to be able to relax and watch a movie when all hell is breaking loose around the world?”
The part of me that felt guilty asked, “What makes me more deserving than the people affected by COVID (back then)?” Or the people fleeing Ukraine (today)?”
The answer to that question is simply this.
That’s what makes me feel so vulnerable.
At times like this, I’d rather live in an illusory world of “deserving/undeserving”. This is the world the Archetype of Scarcity sets up. It’s a world where I can THINK that abundance is something I create through my own efforts. That it’s a goal I can achieve and “earn”.
It’s a world where I get to pretend that I am in control. It’s a giant game of musical chairs. If I “play the game well”, I’ll always end up with a chair – even if others do not. I may feel guilty about it, but at least I have a chair.
This past week, I was even reminded of how I like to use God to play this game. When I “get a chair”, it’s so easy to think “God’s on my side”. When Life goes the way I want and things work out the way I want, I can think “God is good.” All of which becomes evidence of my own goodness. Of my own “deservedness” and “worthiness”.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it makes the opposite true as well. If things aren’t so great and don’t work out the way I want, does that mean God isn’t good? Is that proof that something IS wrong me? That I AM worthless?
When we make God a god who rewards, we simultaneously make God a god who punishes – even if it is subconscious. The only way to relate to that God is with fear and guilt. We create a relationship with this god that is centered around OUR actions. On OUR deserving of reward or punishment.
Except the people of Ukraine haven’t done anything to “deserve” what is happening to them. Nor have the people of Madagascar. I haven’t done anything to “deserve” a roof over my head, food in the fridge, or the luxury of going for long walks.
So the only REAL answer to all my “Why?” questions is this…
I DON’T KNOW.
I don’t know why my life is relatively unchanged while life for the people of Ukraine has been destroyed.
I don’t know why I have so much when the people of Madagascar do not.
I don’t know why our 160-year old farmhouse is still standing when homes in Winterset, Iowa or Mayfield, Kentucky are not.
All I know is that – today – I AM fortunate.
All that is happening in our world only reinforces the truth that I have SO MUCH. That I have been GIVEN so much.
And for that, I’m asked to feel GRATEFUL – not guilty or “deserving” or “secure”.
Amidst the contradictory feelings of gratitude and guilt I felt back in 2020, a prayer came to me. It bubbled up from my heart that became my guiding force. I’ve been praying it again this week. I hope it will become your prayer and guiding force as well, my friend. It goes like this…
For all that I have received, may I be TRULY grateful.
May I use it WISELY.
And may I share it GENEROUSLY.
As I typed it here, I had a sudden realization. Maybe there IS an answer to the question I keep asking, i.e., “Why am I so fortunate?”
It’s so that I can share what I have been given GENEROUSLY.
With the people of Ukraine and Madagascar. With people in Winterset and Mayfield. With the homeless person I encounter on a street corner in Madison. By giving blood at the upcoming Blood Drive in our community.
Be it in large or small ways, is there any better way to show my gratitude for unearned gift and blessing?
Could there be any wiser way for me to use what I have received?
I think not.
What about you, my friend?
If, like me, you are experiencing how fortunate and blessed you are right now, will you double your commitment to use the gifts you’ve been given wisely? Will you double-down on the ways you share them generously to any or all who are struggling?
I’d love to hear your response. And to hear of the places and ways you are doing so – so that I have even more ideas for sharing all that I have received.
With love in my heart & praying for peace…