“And the world keep on turning
and the sun keep on burning
and the children keep learning
how to grow up big and strong.”
~ Mark Heard, How To Grow Up Big and Strong
It’s been stated before in these pages, how much we can learn about ourselves by taking note of our own words. Many an exploratory essay can begin with I heard myself say. Yesterday, a close friend noticed my exhaustion and asked me what I needed most. My response came from depths beneath chattering thoughts: “Stability. I can use some tranquility.” Many human desires center on this universal yearning. Recognizing change as the one constant is head-knowledge. It’s not always the most pleasant thing to hear. Yet somehow just as a holding pattern is acknowledged, that’s just when the ground begins to shift. “Permanence!” shouts the mortal voice into the wind.
Still, the pursuit of certitude pulls at the soul. Straining to see far ahead seems a natural impulse, yet it isn’t always the wisest or most assuring action. Anxiously attempting to overreach loses the present and forgets useful past references. But perhaps there’s something necessary in recoiling and launching, hints of aspirations to aim higher than what is presently seen. The spirit needs to deepen and grow, or else it will stagnate. Turning a corner, discovering perspective, combines a wonder of new terrain with a facing of fears found. The desire for progress will interrupt the safety of sameness. On a practical level, one cannot advance without motioning forward.
When pacing nighttime floors, trying to comprehend life’s demands, I try to remember having surmounted many trials. There isn’t a set formula for trouble-free survival; but somehow a great many of us get by. Trust is as essential as realistic perspective. Those regrettable times of uselessness were real, as well as some good old days. Fears have ways of turning the mind back to longing for simplicity. A clear memory is enough to remind me there’s never really been an age without flailing. Time’s accumulation persists, and so must the crafting of vision. A prayer remains, for direction and paths on reliable ground.
There’s still much for me to learn about provision. If I try to imagine “enough,” it is surely more than I could procure. Sufficiency seems a moving target in this culture of consumption. The margin widens between necessity and what might be deemed as security. The “what ifs” surprise the unaware, and hunting for elusive stability becomes grasping at clouds. What purports to be “enough to live well” looks more like a mirage. Acceptance of uncertainty may be the best release that opens the mind to creatively persevere.
What of stability, if the playing surface has the fluidity of game pieces? Now I must apply the cumulative value of what is being learned and check the fears with reminders that my aspirations will come to something. Something qualitatively better. Even if I am not certain, hopes that originate far beyond me are those of certitude. Head-knowledge meets heart-certainty, and the encounter can be something of a struggle. Innately, I must know by now that I do not walk this road alone. Assessing what would be enough precariously lends to wanting what is missing, while not appreciating what is present. The ideal of “enough" is fantasy, and is as stagnating as dwelling upon what missing ingredient is lacking. With trust, the investment of time may embolden by default. As an elderly man, Brother Roger of Taizé focused much of his writing upon the setting forth from doubt towards faith. He wrote that in so doing he invoked, "I believe, help my unbelief," and "in growing older, faith becomes less arduous, certainty prevails." It seems that faith means moving forward without enough resources.
Though we may stall for time or wish it away, the advances of days, seasons, and years cannot be altered. Change is constant, and the attempt to freeze time is no easier than the old habit of trying to speed it up. Should it be possible to turn back the clock, wouldn't it be preferable to relive younger days with an older mind! But that, too, is as unreal as perfectionism. So today presents the stage upon which time can be sculpted. Without transitions and surface changes, meaningful developments cannot take place. Preoccupations about things too far in the distance must not subvert the vital stability that embraces what is. Inevitably, how much am I really in control of things? Day-sized parcels of hours: that’s even the way time is dispensed to the privileged and prominent. My own privilege and honor is to remember the journey with God is one of accompaniment and transcendent sense of home.