Detours in Life
Sometimes things don’t go like we had planned. Maybe the car won’t start so you are late to that meeting. Maybe the store was out of your secret ingredient for your holiday casserole. Maybe you discovered that you thought you had scheduled a blog post only to discover there was a glitch in the system. Maybe the power went off overnight and so your alarm didn’t go off. Maybe you spilt coffee on your tie right before you walked out of the house. None of these things were really your fault and yet, you are the one who has to make things right. After all, life happens.
In the past we have talked about how practice makes perfect. The same is true when it comes to basic living. We plan for the successes in life but it is the “oops!” and goofs that really build strength. We seldom practice success; it is its own reward. What we practice are the mistakes either we made or life just threw our way. By practicing, we gradually overcome and learn. We gain strength but also confidence to move ahead in life. We feel we can take on another project, which comes with a new set of challenges. Because they are new, these challenges come with their own set of mistakes… and the process starts all over again. Life happens.
As adults, we tend to overlook that learning process, the series of one step forward and two steps backwards that we all make. Detours are a time of learning. Life is not about standing still. It is about growing and falling down, getting right back up – the good and the bad, and how to improve.
Several years ago I took a class (a wonderful class) on spiritual practices. I freely admit I signed up for it because of I was going to do a series on prayer (Advent 2015). I thought it would be a great reference and the timeliness of the class offering made it a perfect fit. I was certain such a class had to include praying. I was wrong. Life happens.
The class focused on the spirituality within each of us as we go about our daily livings. It was less on the “churchy” things we tend to tack on to such things as prayer and more about the mundane everyday things we all have to do … or should do. Instead of hearing someone talk about how to pray, I heard about washing the dishes. Was this an “Oops!” moment?
The “Everyday Spiritual Practices” class I took was a great class but it did not discuss praying. What it did discuss was being connected to our living, being present in the moment. Coaches tell athletes that they need to be “present in the moment.” What they are really saying is forget about that last pass you didn’t catch, the goal you didn’t make; live the play at hand. It is great advice…in the moment.
Tomorrow, though, after the game is over, that same coach will spend all day going over the game and showing the players where they made their mistake. That coach will point out where the player was supposed to turn so that he could have caught the ball or how distraction from a guard threw the passer off a bit so that a ball caught and then thrown was too far to the right to hit the basket. Today they need to live in the moment to win the game but tomorrow they will live in the past to prepare for the future.
Such a habit of living and learning is great for sports but it doesn’t do much for our spiritual life and yes, even atheists have a spiritual life. We all have a soul, a spirit within us. We all exist and by existing, we are connected to other things and people. Even the homeless are connected, maybe not to a structural house but to their own favorite place to sleep on the ground, their comfortable blanket or hat.
If we think about it, a detour is a time of reflection and supplication, of reviewing like that coach the day after the game. It can also be a time of understanding. Life can be very confusing and confounding. A detour offers us a different perspective.
Spirituality is a very popular word these days, very trendy and often said in all the right places. True spirituality is usually the result of and the cause of a detour in life. For some, spirituality is a term they use to avoid in-depth retrospection. For others, it is a curse to be avoided and for still some, it is a way to avoid the unpleasant truths about ourselves. Not all spirituality can be good or have positive outcomes. Adolf Hitler and ISIS are two prime examples of such as are Charles Manson and Jim Jones.
We all have what St Augustine called “ordo amoris”, an ordering our loves. In other words, we have things we love and place a priority on those things. We also place a priority on the everyday mundane tasks that life requires; washing dishes, doing laundry, keeping the car in working order and filled with gas. Few of us love doing those mundane tasks but they allow us to live and do what we do love or need to do. When faced with a detour, we tend to react instead of act.
Who are you? What would you be without your personal “ordo amoris”? When we encounter acts of terrorism, the fabric of many lives is ripped apart as people doing rather mundane tasks are suddenly faced with a tragic detour. In a matter of moments destructive spirituality literally tears hundreds of lives apart.
None of us are born with a warranty tag attached under our arms or on the back of our necks. Life happens. The importance of prayer, that conversation we have with our faith as we live, keeps us sane and emphasizes our being connected. Our spirituality, that which connects us to our universe and life, tells us we are alive. Life happens and so, we need to live it. Detours are scary and exhilarating. They need reflection and preparation. They demand we are present in the moment in navigating these detours in our living. After all, if we are lucky, life happens.