Just the other day I found myself typing a text response. “Finally a break! Woohoo! Hopefully we’ll have smooth sailing from here.” Then I caught myself.[Delete. Delete. Delete.]
Is that what I really want? Smooth sailing? My grandma always said smooth sailing never made a skillful sailor. True, grandma, yet so much of the time it’s what I think I want. Smooth sailing.
But is it really? I’m beginning to see it’s not so much smooth sailing I want, as it is control.
Because I seem to always find myself on some sort of stormy sea, in one area of life or another, desperately trying to control it. Manage it. Perhaps my marriage is going really well, but a friendship isn’t. Or my relationships are great, but I feel aimless in my direction, calling or career. Or maybe a deep old wound is ripped open and I’m feeling raw, resentful and afraid. In that case maybe the stormy sea is inside the dangerous landscape of my own mind. And it’s loud.
Pema Chodron said: “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Why do you always have to be right Pema?! The older I get the more I’m sure that nothing really ever goes away completely. The stories of our past hang with us; playing in the background of our life. People, situations and circumstances brush up against them testing what we believe, who we are, and what we have learned. It’s why I think that loving ourselves better is our life work.
Grief, loss, misunderstanding, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, shame — they stand on the sidelines waiting to be felt. Heard. Acknowledged. And healed. But we have to listen. We have to trust ourself. Our story, our journey; the still small voice that lives in us, telling us the way to go. For me that voice usually whispers. Goes against the grain. It leads me to places of vulnerability and humility; bowing instead of brandishing my sword.
Sometimes I really want to brandish my sword. Sometimes I do. Or I have. But every time there’s a gentle correction, a falter, and a fall. Because storms will come. In this life, the seas will be rough. At this point I’m pretty sure there is no smooth sailing for any of us. So do we rail our ship against the waves, or shake our fist at the sky and curse the wind? Control. That’s my first instinct. Or do we surrender? Surrender to the One who rules the universe. The One who commands the wind and the rain and the land and the sea. The One who moves mountains, and paints sunsets just for you.
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
Maybe it isn’t so much learning a lesson from the trial or the hardship or the pain — but rather learning the perspective from which to view our life; on whom to fix our gaze, and the place to set our hope. We live on a stormy sea but there is one who can calm it in an instant, with His voice. He is our peace.
Maybe that is what we need to know; the lesson everything in our life is trying to teach us. Maybe that is what I’ve been struggling to learn for so long, trying to figure out and fix. Maybe there is nothing to fix, but where I set my eyes.
What stormy sea are you facing right now?