Last week, I had a vision of my life as a giant whack-a-mole game about the size of Texas. I lay splayed flat over the fake gopher holes trying with all my limbs to keep the little critters underground, but of course there was a slight problem of scale.
In other words, as always happens about halfway through Lent, I found myself thoroughly embroiled in exactly what I was attempting to give up: effort, which arises from attempting to control a situation, any situation.
Then I went on vacation and began to wonder whether our lives might be easier, more effortless, if we lived every day as if we were tourists. Wandering around downtown Minneapolis with no particular destination, I walked over a bridge and saw a train passing underneath. A flat car held what looked like giant, metal spools of thread. Another held what might be girders for a bridge somewhere down the line.
I can’t remember ever watching a cargo train pass from above before. It would never have occurred to me to schedule in this experience, and had that been an ordinary day, I probably would have walked right by, focused on making life match my expectations of it.
Not one of us can look back on our lives and say, yes, that all went exactly according to plan. I knew that if I whacked that gopher first, I could easily get the next three that were obviously going to pop up over there. So why do we insist on approaching our current and future lives as if we can clearly chart the path forward?
On my monitor at work, I have a blue sticky note with the poem “Fluent” by John O’Donohue:
I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.
Though it is often really, really hard, we can trust our own unfolding. Every river flows toward the sea. Our own destination—emptying into divinity—is just as certain.