Situations and circumstances are for transformation

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If you asked me, “what is your favorite bible verse?”, without thinking I would say: 1 Peter 5: 7. It is the verse that comes to mind instantaneously. After some thought, I could, of course, come up with many other verses, but this one simply leaps up in my mind.

This is what it says – according to most translations: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you”. Some versions expand “anxiety” to include worries, concerns, cares, and even fears. And that is true because anxiety can stretch very long.

But the point is: Is there any use actually, being anxious? Anxiety, worry, care, fear and the like are negative emotions. They stir up endless hypothetical questions which further raise the level of the emotion, worry breading more worry and fear, more fear and ultimately paralysis.

Worries and anxiety are borne of unexpected situations. Yet, nothing happens without reason or purpose – even the unexpected. The reason or purpose for the circumstance is what matters. Circumstances and situations are there to inform us; to teach and enlighten. In short, to transform us.

So, instead of praying to have a situation or circumstance removed, pray to be transformed by it.

 

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The Good Jew instead of the Good Samaritan

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I have affirmed elsewhere in this blog what the late Prof. Shemaryahu Talmon (1920-2010) suggested: that Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan could actually have been a parable of the Good Jew. My own convictions are prompted by the fact that Jesus’ call to action inevitably shakes and startles those he calls. He challenges us to move from a world of comfort to one of perplexity, from certainty to doubt, from safety to risk and even danger.

Here is a contemporary illustration: Over the past two or three months three or four congregations have been working and planning on receiving and resettling a refugee family from the Middle East. One family, but four interfaith congregations. Obviously there are complex cultural, social, and educational dimensions as well as legal processes. If you pause to think of the magnitude of human suffering anywhere – including at home – what emerges in this picture is a pursuit for efficiency rather than expediency. Certainty and the least – if any – risk!

The temple priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable subordinated human life to ritual expediency and we see Jesus challenging that mindset in his ministry and teaching. Be it Sabbath, dietary rituals or a man writing a “get” to divorce his wife, Jesus’ challenges his followers on a road not yet traveled.

That is the road a Jew would have traveled in the parable.

Vision conquers any adversity

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Here is another quote from Helen Keller: “Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties”. This is in alignment with another truth she pointed out, that “all that we love deeply becomes part of us”.

This is a continuation of the conversation started yesterday that we must have a vision, concrete imagination of what we want. (We’ll refine “what we want” later). And we are using Helen Keller as a fitting example of thousands of people who get to realize that creative imagination is power enough to conquer any adversity.

We pointed out yesterday too that we need to believe: Believe what? First that it is not impossible. Many times we talk ourselves out of our dreams because we either tell ourselves or believe others who tell us, “No! That’s not for you”; “It’s beyond your reach”; and so on. Either because of some present adversity or past setback, we convince ourselves to not pursue a dream.

Second, we need to believe in the vision. We are all endowed with a dream for something beyond ourselves – that is the passion without which we cannot find peace or joy. So, what is your dream? What is your passion? Think about this quote from Nelson Mandela: “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”. That is a good summary of vision, of dreams, of imagination.

 

Sight and no vision leads nowhere

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When asked what could be worse than blindness – if anything – Helen Keller gave this enduring response: “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”. How many of us could be going through life with full sight but no vision?

Vision is future-oriented. Indeed, vision creates what does not yet exist. You are probably familiar with Robert Kennedy’s often-repeated quote, “some people see things as they are and why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?”, a paraphrase of George Bernard Shaw’s original from his 1921 play, “Back to Methuselah” (You see things; and you say why? But I dream things that never were; and I say, why not?)

Vision is the first step to creating the life and world we desire. It does not come about simply by hard work and achievement. It is first and foremost imagined, given form, then birthed. The other necessary ingredients are passion (a strong desire for the vision), faith (a strong belief in the vision) and action.

More on this later.