The mysteries of God’s will.
It is Sunday. It is a Church day.
I come here on the weekend and I sit and I listen to the pastor. I listen to everyone around me. I am genuinely curious about what people have to say about their own individual perception of the world and about their sacred intimate relationship with God. But even more than listening to what others have to say, I am all ears to hear and detect what flows inside of my own soul. I listen to the movements of my spirit.
Every sermon is different and every single one is thought-provoking. I leave the chapel with things to meditate on and I always go home with a feeling that the time I spent there was good for me. I can sense an internal confirmation that the spiritual event that occurred inside of me is doing the work. It is healing, it is calming, it is anchoring me to what is important.
I write today about some of the things that I heard today and my own meditations on them.
The pastor spoke about Freedom.
He asked us to think about what freedom means to us. He said that oftentimes we are being slaves of the world’s expectations.
These words didn’t evoke a strong reaction. I believe that every person who highly values and protects his spirituality, sooner or later, arrives at an insight that the real growth lies beyond the level at which you allow the world condition who you are. You’ve got to unshackle yourself from the ideas that are imposed on you. You’ve got to be selective in what information coming from without. You must remember that everything that enters your mind becomes a part of your self-identity.
However, his next words resonated within me. A trap more subtle, and in some cases more dangerous is following us like a shadow bypassing our eyes — a trap of being a slave of our own expectations.
Struggling with your own expectations is a constant and hard internal work. Being always in dispute with yourself, being frustrated when the goals and ambitions are not fulfilled, being angry and even resentful at your own inability to bend the reality to your own liking.
Whatever our “failure” is, we can all relate to this. We are all too hard on ourselves, for self-sabotaging our goals, for being weak, for underperforming, for underachieving. For just being “under” the life that always seems to pass by.
Not being a slave of your own expectations is not about lowering your bar or your standards, it is more about cultivating your beliefs so that they propel you in life without creating excessive importance.
Expectations are useless. No matter how hard you want to force reality to comply and unfold in accordance with your vision, life always has its own way.
We are here to play the game, and we are here to get better at playing it. But the first game that we must excel at is the game with our own mind. We shall not create expectations that are detrimental to our well-being.
The pastor spoke about Chains.
“Sometimes a marriage can be a chain. Sometimes a church can be a chain.”
Now that is interesting. It is clear how marriage can be a chain, but I would never expect to hear that a church can be a chain coming from a pastor (speaking of expectations again).
What he meant is that some Christians fall into a trap of thinking: “I go to church, I give my money, I listen to the sermon, and that makes me a good Christian!” But some Christians are good only behind the walls of the church.
Regardless of our spiritual beliefs, we may all fall into the same trap of creating a mental checklist of all the good things that we do and ticking boxes against the items on this list. We stroke our egos measuring the amount of goodness in us, and we are so convinced that for that goodness God must reward us with his grace in return.
This feeling of being entitled to God’s love is such an imperceptible process, and that makes it even harder to detect and prevent it from happening.
“Get of your horse.”
Humility is the key. I must be humble. I must focus on the service to others. I must bow to the higher power that has a plan for me.
But how do we understand God’s plan for us?
It is indeed a good question but the answer is rather simple:
We always want to see the big picture. We want to conceive the movement of invisible gears of the Universe that slowly rotate preordaining our future. And somewhere, at the back alleys of our mind, we struggle to come to terms with the fact that God’s plan is forever beyond our grasp.
We are so clumsy in our attempts to not just predict but shape the future. We make plans. But our plans are imperfect — they are as imperfect as we are.
So is there a way of understanding the God’s will? I don’t know, but a productive approach to this question exists.
“God gives us light that shines only far enough to make another step.”
Once we trust God’s plan, but more importantly, once we allow ourselves to believe that there is a higher plan for us, once we start believing in our own purpose, our own predestination, all things start to fall into places.
We start to witness God’s work.
We see signs and guidance in the situations that happen around us. We start to hear the words we are meant to hear from the people we are meant to meet. And in all of this cacophony of events, we can make sense and navigate and not get lost if we embrace the guidance of the voice within.
God is great. He is doing all the work.
I am just a man. My job is small and humble. It is to be patient and continue doing what I do best: keep putting one leg in front of the other.
I shall trust God that as long as I am doing what is required of me, as long as I do not abandon my calling, there will always be a revelation of the next step to take.
As Buddha said: “If there is an intention, there shall be insight.” Or putting it in the context of Christianity:
“God reveals his secrets to his servants.”
But what if I am an atheist? Does Christian wisdom still apply to me?
I might be wrong but this is my humble opinion:
No one is an atheist in the face of death.
Regardless of our scars, regardless of how ugly the world made us, or how ugly we made ourselves, deep inside each one of us, there is still a child that shivers from a single thought about the ‘longest night’.
We all believe in something. And even if among friends you show off your confidence in the fact that we are all just blobs of protein destined to decompose after biological death, when you stare at the ceiling of your bedroom, not being able to fall asleep, you are deeply bothered by the same question that bothers all sleepless beings:
What’s there “behind the curtains”?
The more I see the way people live, and the way people believe, the more I am impressed by the profundity of a recent insight.
Faith is a choice.
One can’t become a believer grown up as an atheist. It would probably take a miracle to convert a cynic overnight, and knowing how powerful people are in rationalizing things they see even a miracle won’t be enough.
But one thing remains true for everyone.
Regardless of the depth of our own faith, we can still choose to live our lives the way that men of greater faith preach to live.
I may not have the strongest faith, but I most definitely have a rock-solid intent to understand the nature of faith and find the ways how it can empower me and allow me to live a more fulfilling, more productive life.
And that brings me to the last point for today.
Why do I write about all this? Why not just listen to the sermon, quietly journal my thoughts, and keep them all to myself? Why publish them online for everyone to read and to judge?
And here is my why.
“I am here at the church and this is my work. I spread the word of God within these walls. But who is preaching in the place where you are?”
~ Pastor Endrit Mullisi
This is the question that I ask myself every time I feel a desire to pass.
Who if not me?
It is true. I am not the brightest, not the humblest, and definitely not the most gifted man in the room. But there are certain things I know I can do — I can write and I can remain immune to the criticism of the world.
And this is my prayer for you.
Walk boldly in the world. Be fearless and trust God as he has a plan for you. However, be humble as the plan is revealed only to those who are open to revelation. Pray hard to discern how you can fulfill your purpose but work even harder for the purpose to be fulfilled. God has no other hands but yours.
I encourage you to read the blog of the pastor who preaches in the church I currently attend. Please, check it out!
Thank you for reading this essay.
If you would like to learn more about my work, here is my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.