Trusting The Miracle

I’ve been wondering what to do with myself lately.  Perhaps it’s because I turned sixty a few months ago.  Perhaps it’s because I had a heart attack shortly afterwards.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never held a job longer than seven years, and I’m approaching that now.  Perhaps it’s because I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.  But a part of me is unsure what’s next.

I’ve come to realize that I’ve always been moving toward something.  When I was in high school, it was going to college.  From there it was going to seminary and becoming a pastor.  Once in a church, I was building a career, getting bigger congregations, until I wasn’t doing that anymore, and suddenly building a different life.  That meant getting a PhD and switching to the substance abuse field, where I began once more to construct a career, finding ways to move ahead, from a counselor, to a clinical director, to an executive director, until that ended.  And now that I’ve established a new career teaching in a community college, a part of me is asking where do I go from here.

I’m not looking to move upwards in academia; becoming a full professor at Harvard is not likely at this point.  Community colleges don’t offer tenure.  I never want to return to administration.  A raise would be nice, but I won’t be migrating in pursuit of one.

Which is why I sometimes feel at loose ends.  I’ve always been headed somewhere, and I no longer have a target.  Am I aiming for retirement?  Is that my goal?  Retirement  sounds threatening, like a rendezvous with death, and I’m not ready to go there yet.  I’m not spending the next ten years simply waiting to get older.

I’ve known people who did tread water until they died.  Down the road from my first church, a neighboring pastor hadn’t written a new sermon in twenty years.  He recycled them at five year intervals, which also explained his five year tenures, four more than the congregation usually wanted.  One week he preached on “The Benefits of Becoming a Registered Nurse,” which I think he copied from a brochure.

I vowed never to be like Charlie, and is why I need another aim in life, a target, goal, intention, if for no other reason than I’ve always had one.  Is it blogging?  Is it writing another unpublished novel?  Is it buying a stereo, a large fish tank, a hot tub, and settling back into a reverie with my partner?  Actually, I’ll do the last one regardless, so I still need a further aim.

At the same time, when I think back, I also realize how much was not under my control.  Even things I thought were clear choices, like becoming a pastor, or my first marriage, seem a lot less clear in retrospect.  Life gets more mysterious with age.  I’ve seen too many things happen that came out of nowhere or vanished into nowhere, too many coincidences beyond my ability to plan.  What makes me think I can intentionally aim for anything?

A lot of things I’ve hit I wasn’t aiming for, and a lot of things I aimed for turned out to not be what I wanted.  I should probably confess I don’t know what I’m doing, and simply wait to see what happens, because that’s the way my life has mostly gone anyway.  Sometimes it feels like I’m along for the ride.  I simply pretend to steer.

But if I’m not in charge, who is?  Is life under God’s control?  I hope not, because God will have a lot to answer for.  Does that mean life is out of control?  I don’t think that, either.  Life may be bloody, but it’s also a miracle, and miracles are never accidents.

In the Gospel of John, miracles are called signs, markers that reveal an underlying reality, otherwise hidden to sight.  They expose a value-added element to existence, one that continually recedes from view, but whose presence proves there is more than blindness to our cosmic luck.  The creation of life is the original sign, the miracle that led to our own.

It’s why I remain an optimist, despite my cynicism.  Life is not an accident, and neither are we.  I have no idea what purpose we serve.  For all I know, we may be an infection.  But we’re not unintentional.  We are the result of a loving, life-giving Spirit.

For all the times I’ve felt lost, there are also times I’m sure my location is known, my transit on track, with doors that open and close according to an unknown map.  There’s a flow to things, an intentionality whose loving character has mostly gone unbelieved.

My real challenge is to let myself trust the flow.  I know the results of my own well-laid plans.  Fighting the current usually leaves me beached on a sandbank somewhere downstream.

I can’t think of a better aim for the foreseeable future.  Despite all the available evidence, I will continue to believe in the miracle.  I will continue to trust in the loving Spirit.  I will continue to trust in where that trust takes me.

About Bucky Dann

I teach religion, sociology, and psychology at Southwestern Community College in the Smoky Mountains. I have worked in the United Methodist ministry and in the substance abuse field. I possess a Masters of Divinity, a Masters of Philosophy, and a PhD in the sociology of knowledge.

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