Tight Ropes

Georgia O'Keeffe, "From the River - Pale", 1959

Georgia O'Keeffe, "From the River - Pale", 1959

I avoid thinking about the esoteric nature of my future all that much, it can be depressing if I let myself dwell in it.  I have a very happy life and very happy plans, and there are so many things that could go wrong and ruin my beautiful ideas.  It’s all unknown, and on my way home I could be hit by a car and it would all be over, my play book tossed aside because the game got cut short.

I had a professor in grad school that made a point of attaching “Lord willing” to any phrase about the future.  It’s one of those phrases that keeps us humble and reminds us that we actually have a lot less say in life then we think we do. It reminds us we can make our plans but we’re foolish to believe we have much more control than an ant below the enormous sole of fate.

Daily noting our mortality reminds us of God, and his part in our narrative.  We find ourselves caught up in writing our perfect plan for our lives and need daily reminding that we are not immortal, that the very breath we breathe was given to us, and that God should be a very integral part of our narrative. The humility it takes to embrace the context of the bigger picture and our small place in it, puts God back into our plans, the very center point of what this all revolves around.

In the Night Shema Prayer it says, “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who casts the bonds of sleep upon my eyes and slumber upon my eyelids, and Who illuminates the pupil of the eye.  May it be your will, Hashem, my God and the God of my forefathers, that You lay me down to sleep in peace and raise me erect for good life and for peace….may you illuminate my eyes lest I die in sleep.  Blessed are You, Hashem, Who illuminate the entire world with His glory”.  Every night I notice the parts that bring awareness to my life today, prayer that I’ll be raised up for life tomorrow if it’s his will.  It’s a harsh reality, but every night I read it and I find myself grateful for my day, hopeful for tomorrow and keenly aware of the fragility of my existence. 

When we have a sober view of the mystery of life, priorities fall into line easier.  We all live out of a set of priorities, consciously or subconsciously and our decisions expose them, but if we’re conscious about what we value then it will help us to live decided lives as opposed to reactive ones. Minut frustrations seem to fade away and the motivation to be active participants in our lives and God’s work of redeeming the world becomes central again.

It's probably a survival mechanism of the human mind to forget our fragility so as to not live in fear, or maybe it's the lie of the western world.  Either way, it seems I need this reminder every day, that I’m walking a tight rope between life and death, and I’m part of God’s work in the world and that’s a privilege I should never let myself forget.