Thursday, 11 February 2010

Living trustfully

I have been watching a variety of people trying to make decisions or reacting to some unexpected event that comes their way. Despite the enormous similarities of our needs, our desires, our sorrows, and our dreams, we can be remarkably different when faced with some very common situations.

One type of person seem to fret about every detail of every option. Nothing is complete unless it is absolutely perfect, with every possibility and eventuality considered, every option compared and analyzed - and often re-analyzed again and again. Every greeting is suspect, every offer a likely deception. To this person, the worst case is the only case worth considering. To such a person, the world is a uniformly dangerous place, with threats hidden at every turn.

And then, there are those people who walk through their lives more lightly. Decisions are made and allowed to pass by. If it wasn't perfect, so what? Life is not met with scrutiny and a dubious spirit. Everything that comes their way is a new possibility - a gift to be considered and perhaps explored.

The first type of person - the person who lives with more scrutiny - might get slightly better deals on their purchases. They probably get fooled a bit less. They might even make fewer bad decisions than the second type. They are careful. If they were a ship, they would put up only a tiny sail, and then, only rarely, when the winds seem just perfect. Their journey is safe, but slow. Many opportunities are missed in the interest of safety or perfection.

But the second type of person - the person who lives with trust - is a broad sail that catches more of the wind's power. This person may get buffeted about a bit more often - and may even get tipped over occasionally. But, the trusting or faithful person goes further and faster. The wind - the world - is their friend, their gift, their treasure.

At my best, I am the broad sail allowing the flow of the universe and the spirit to carry me forward. At my worst, I keep my sails furled in fear.

Congregations are like this too - and so are many secular organizations. You can tell one from the other by the way they make decisions. The untrusting congregation inspects every new idea intensively, looking for the flaws, looking for the downsides, looking for reasons to say "no." The default is "no" unless they can be convinced that the initiative is completely lacking in all flaws. They say "no" because "there's too much going on already." They say "no" because "we tried it before and it didn't work." They say "no" because "we haven't known him/her long enough to trust." They say no because "we need to conserve our resources carefully. They say "no" because the world is a frightening place and because "no" is always safer in the short term.

The trusting congregation receives a new idea or initiative with joy. It opens wide that big sail and stows it only in the most ferocious of storms. Their default is "yes."  New ideas are supported unless they are obviously opposed to the mission or values of the congregation. If it is not a dangerous squall, each new breeze is recognized as the life-giving spirit it truly is and the ship moves forward.

No doubt there are inborn tendencies that dispose some of us toward an anxious lack of trust or to take a faithful, trusting, open-sailed approach to life. Sadly, many have had experiences in life that taught them to fear the coming breeze. It is my deepest hope that we can all learn to open our sails - even if just a bit more each day - and harvest the full bounty that this universe offers.

To the extent I can choose, I know which kind of ship I will be. Full sail ahead!

1 comment:

  1. Great metaphor! Reminds me of this:

    "Faith is a state of openness or trust. To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float. And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on. In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all. Instead they are holding tight. But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be."

    -- Alan Watts