Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spirituality of DFTBA: But Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves

For Lent this year, I'm trying to make DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome) my spiritual discipline. Inspired by the Vlogbrothers and Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, I'm considering what DFTBA looks like for me and for my two-year-old daughter, Esther.

So far my Lenten discipline has included:
1. Remember you're awesome.
2. So is everybody else.
3. Girls are awesome.

Spirituality of DFTBA 5: But Let's Not Get Ahead of Ourselves
While it's great to remember we're awesome, and also great to remember that others are awesome, it's important to keep it all in perspective.  Being awesome, being made in the image of God, does not mean that we are, in fact, God.

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.” 
― Parker J. Palmer

Parker Palmer is a pretty awesome writer about vocation and teaching. This quote is an expression of his understanding of humanity.  We are awesome (the pocket with the gold), but we are mortal (dust). The mortality aspect of humanity hopefully gives us some humility.  When I say humility in this case, I'm not talking about thinking we're not great, not talking about being self-deprecating when someone compliments us. I'm not talking about thinking we're less than anyone else.  
Humility in this case means remembering our human-ness.  From dust (dirt in the book of Genesis, just a bunch of particles in science) we came, to dust we will return. We will die. This hopefully puts our own importance into perspective. Like the dust/gold duality, there is a good side and a bad side to having that perspective, to recognizing our humility and mortality. On the dust side, sometimes it makes us feel so so small in the grand scheme of life and the universe. It can make us doubt our importance. On the gold side, have you ever had one of those moments looking at a starry sky or the expanse of the ocean and thought how big the rest of the world/universe is? It's an awe-inspiring, joyful moment.

The other thing about not being God, is that we don't have as much control over life as we might like. We can't control the weather. Or the economy. Or a virus. Or when we're going to get a flat tire. Dust: it sucks to not have any control. Gold: we're not responsible for a lot of crap that happens in the world.

Even more important but less easy to accept: we don't have control over the actions, thoughts, or feelings of other people.  Dust: The lack of control over other people can be frustrating: we wish people would do what we want, or what we expect... We wish others would understand the things we want them to understand, forgive us when we anger them, read our minds to know what we need... But they don't. 
Gold: Understanding this lack of control can be extremely helpful. No matter how much I beg or cajole or manipulate, I can't make an addict give up his or her addiction. Nothing I do can make someone love me or not love me.  This knowledge is freeing. When I was a kid and my parents split up, I felt it was my job to make everyone's pain less somehow. I hid my feelings so that my sadness and anger wouldn't make my parents or sisters more sad or angry. I acted like my actions could control the feelings of others. Now I know it's not true. No matter my actions, others interpret them in ways I can't control. I can consider the impact of my actions on others, I can communicate my intentions to the best of my ability, but ultimately, I can't control how someone chooses to feel.

Another thing about humility, is knowing the world doesn't revolve around us. For better or worse, people aren't thinking about us all the time! Gold: No, it is not likely that "everyone" was wondering why you wore the same pair of jeans two days in a row. Gold: Your friend's grumpy face when she was talking to you was because of her headache, not because she was disliking you.  Dust: People aren't thinking about you all the time.

Ok, so how does this fit into the spirituality of DFTBA?
Find a place in nature that reminds you of how big Creation is and how small you are.
Put something special in one pocket and an ordinary rock in the other.

And for Esther?
Two-year-olds do not actually have the cognitive/psychological development to get this stuff yet. Babies really think the world DOES revolve around them. 

Consider this substitute in the serenity prayer: 
     God grant me the serenity 
          to accept the things I cannot control
               courage to change the things I can control;
                    and wisdom to know the difference.


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