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Discernment

Monday, August 10, 2009, 04:27 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

This quote came to me this morning in an e-mail from a co-worker and friend. I can’t find a source, though presumably whoever first uttered it never studied English grammar with the late great Sr. Mary Ethel Glynn, S.N.D. But I digress.

God determines who walks into your life. It’s up to you to decide who you let walk away, who you let stay, and who you refuse to let go.

Simple, but not easy. And not even accurate, necessarily. I’ve been struggling recently with the urge to "refuse to let go" someone who has been a part of my life for more than 28 years, the last 23 in absentia. That person, whom I recently found out is a semi-regular reader of this site, knows about my struggle and, to some extent, shares it. But what if he not only wants to be let go, but insists on it?

You can’t always get what you want,
But if you try sometimes
You just might find
You get what you need.

—Keith Richards/Mick Jagger

Or maybe not. Sometimes you get neither what you want nor what you need, or at least what you think you need.

Which brings me to the broader topic, possibly the broadest, aside from the meaning of life itself. How is any of us to know what we should fight for and what is futile? We Christians are taught to pray to know God’s will and it will be revealed to us (James 1:5), and that with God’s will comes God’s peace (Philippians 4:6-7). So if the peace doesn’t come, does that mean that what has happened isn’t God’s will?

I have long believed that everything happens for a reason and that from every trial comes something good. The good isn’t usually immediately obvious, but so far, it has almost always come, eventually. I don’t think I would have developed the wisdom and compassion I like to think I have if, for example, I hadn’t had to deal with death at a young age. I also might have become much more materialistic if I hadn’t faced the financial constraints of single parenthood. In those situations, as in many others, I have seen the immense good that can come from tragedy or difficulty.

But there is still that one situation in my life that, so far, has shown no benefit, at least not to me. My old friend tries to see our situation as a positive, an outlook that evokes in my mind the words of the late Theodor Geisel.

Don’t cry because it’s over;
Smile because it happened.

Of course, one should probably remember that Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss, also wrote about talking fish and green eggs and ham. Is his acceptance of life-as-it-comes also an absurd fiction?

It suddenly strikes me that, as often as good comes from bad, it can also be said that bad can come from good. Everything is a trade-off. In order to have the comfort of a close extended family, I have sacrificed the career advancement I could have enjoyed by relocating. Being careful over the years to remember that any potential mate of mine would also be a potential parent to my son, I have made relationship decisions that caused me short-term sorrow. But I have never regretted those trade-offs. Any regret, any sense of fault on my part, would have been a sign that I had chosen unwisely.

So I say to my friend, in this forum because I lack the courage to say it directly, something I wasn’t able to verbalize until now: if you see what has happened as something for which you are at fault, consider that it may be a sign that you made the wrong choice, despite the wonderful blessings that have come from it. Is it ever too late to choose another path? I fear so, but I hope not. And since the bible is also full of hope, I’ll go with that.

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