The Rush of Everyday Thoughts
It is a typical Sunday night and the most routine of tasks. I move around the condo gathering all the trash for the morning pickup. I’ve done this uncounted times before. My mind is off in a whirl of thoughts.
My wife has been away helping care for her ailing mother. She is about to start the thousand-mile journey home. I am a little worried about the journey. I’m worried about her. I’m worried about her mother.
My daughter has been here for her summer visit. I took her back yesterday. I wonder about her coming school year. How will she do? She fell from a horse last year and broke her collarbone. Even with that, her love of horses is so great she is dropping other activities to have more time to ride. I’m reminded of a famous actor who was recently paralyzed in a fall from a horse. I wonder about my daighter’s safety and know she won’t stop riding.
Tomorrow starts another work week. My mind starts to race through the details and schedules of the coming days. Which meetings are the most important? How do I balance the requirements of various co-workers and activities? What surprises are waiting?
Creating a New Life Story
In counseling, I’ve found that I often fall into a very negative story about my life. It is a story of suffering and hurt and pain. There is doubt about God’s love and kindness. My counselor has suggested I create a new story about why I am on this earth. Why did I come here and what do I want to accomplish?
I remember the words of the gospel hymn that tells how Jesus shows his love by leaving the “splendor of Heaven” to save the world on a cross. It is a moving and powerful hymn.
In my down moment, I wonder: Did I leave heaven to empty trash on a Sunday night in a lonely condo? Did I give up all that glory, even temporarily, to live in uncertainty and confusion and all the unknowns of human existence?
Like a bolt of lightning, the answer hits me. Yes. It’s exactly the routine moments and a life of unknowing that I came for. It’s a chance to spend a life time in the sheer wonder of what the next moment holds.
Science Fiction is full of super races who know everything there is to know. But my boredom is temporary. Those beings can’t possibly be surprised. They know all the answers. Nothing is unknown for them to wonder about.
Have you ever watched your favorite team play on videotape? Even if you don’t know who won, it isn’t the same thing as watching it live. You know you can get the score if you wanted it, and you know that mystery has vanished.
But life constantly surprises me. I can plan and figure and analyze to my heart’s content. It makes little difference. Life will happen the way it does. The only thing I know for sure is that it will surprise me. Sometimes I’ll like the surprise. Sometimes I won’t.
The Blessings of Wonder and Trust
Yet I can do something the super races and divine beings of the universe can’t. I can wonder what the next moment holds without knowing the answer. I can wonder what the future holds for my loved ones. I can go to a game and cheer for my team and I’ll be completely surprised by the result.
There’s more. I am sure to be surprised by the answer to the most fascinating question of all. “How did my life turn out?” The answer: “I don’t know yet.”
I have the chance to learn the meaning of trust. Trust is irrelevant when you know how things turn out. How can I learn trust if there’s no possibility of disappointment? Yet what a great gift. Only by not knowing the future can I learn to trust.
Routine Becomes Awesome
Then another feeling flooded over me. It was awe. This surprised me. In the Catholic church, I learned awe in the observance of expertly and exquisitely executed ritual. I felt the splendor of God in those moments. I was filled with awe.
But I never expected to feel awe in collecting trash. Then, I understood. I was in awe of me! Somewhere, sometime, I agreed to this. It may have been before my birth. It may not have been before this moment. Still, it has happened.
I have agreed to completely put my trust in God. I’m willing to give up the right to know what the next minute holds, or even if I will have another minute.
Peter was willing to step out onto the water at Jesus’ word. In the same way, I am out on the ocean of life. I cry a lot. I holler and complain a lot, and still, there are those moments when my trust is complete.
In those moments I am in awe of everyone. That any of us have the courage to leave the “splendor of heaven” and to live in a sea of the unknown is amazing. That we all do is awesome.
Gathering the trash will never be quite the same. In the routine of day-to-day life, I encountered a moment of awe.
This article originally appeared in the April, 1996 edition of Unity Magazine