You will flow

Swans go with the flow at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, July 2003

Swans go with the flow at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, July 2003

“As your faith is strengthened you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.” — author unknown; attributed to Emmanuel Tanay

Among the most ultimately comforting but persistently difficult teachings of Jesus are his words in Matthew 6:25-34, where he warns us against worry, saying “take no thought for tomorrow.”  Really?  When I read these words I find myself saying “Yes, but…”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean to be irresponsible.” (No, it doesn’t, but there is a difference between being responsible and feeling a compulsive need to control everything as much as possible.)  “Yes, but he wasn’t speaking literally.” (He wasn’t? Did he really mean “You should only worry a little bit” or “You should only worry about REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS?”) “Yes, but things were very different in those days.” (And I’m guessing there was even more to worry about then…food, clothing, survival, all the things mentioned in the full context of what Jesus said.)

It really is possible to live a sane, wise and responsible life without excessive worry about the future, but our culture does not promote that kind of mental framework.  Advertisers seek to sell us everything from clothes to cars to insurance by playing to our worst fears and insecurities.  The news media bombard us continually with stories designed primarily to catch and keep our attention by making us afraid of what we might miss.  Financial advisers have created an advice industry geared toward teaching us to find security in money.  Health care providers coach us to stay current on diagnostic screening.  On and on it goes.

I am working on learning to do what I can, and then let go of the outcome.  It’s a difficult process, but unfortunately (or fortunately?) life has a way of prying our fingers loose from anything we hold too tightly.  When I get most agitated and tense, it really does help to take a few deep breaths and imagine something peaceful, such as a gently flowing brook, or the graceful gliding of a swan in the water.  There are times when it becomes all too obvious that we have no choice but to “go with the flow” of life, one day at a time.  I hope your day will flow peacefully today!

27 Comments

  1. Excellent admonition! Thank you,dear sister!

    • You’re welcome! You have lived this kind of faith before me for as far back as I can remember — thanks for being a good example of what I’m talking about.

  2. victoria k copp

    Thank you, Julia. Even with Matt 6:27 I still worry. I have the same questions you ask. And yet, much later, sometimes much, much later when the worry is over, I know that the Almighty had it in his hands the whole time. Yours is a timely reminder because I am going through this now.

    • Victoria, that makes two of us — and I suspect, many more than that! Sometimes when I am finally able to look back and see those times God was at work while I was frantic, I seem to hear God asking, “Now do you trust me?” But then when things get frightening again, I have to remind myself how recently it was that I felt totally convinced all was working for good. I think it’s getting a bit easier in one sense, in that I have more certainty about it; but it’s harder also because such times of letting go seem to be coming more frequently as I age. Thanks for being here, and for your comment!

  3. Eric

    On prying our fingers loose from anything we hold too tightly: I recently asked one of your blog readers if she was familiar with a book entitled A Severe Mercy. Its author, Sheldon Vanauken, takes the title from a letter C.S. Lewis wrote to him – in fact, the book is filled with personal correspondence between Lewis and Vanauken. Much of it deals with the subject you address here. Have a good Lord’s Day!

    • I really need to go back and read that book again. I have a copy of it, but I’m afraid it might be hard to take just now. One of my favorite quotes from Anne Lamott is “Everything in my life I ever gave up has claw marks on it.” Or words to that effect.

  4. Lately, I hardly ever feel like I’m in control, I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. I’ve seen what being a ‘control freak’ can do to a person and I don’t much care for it. This person was unhappy all her life and very intolerant of others, their ideas or feelings. I try my hardest to live as opposite as possible to that as it was so difficult to be around. When I was working, one of the major keys to success at what I did was to be a great negotiator, winning people over with compromise, earning consensus. Consensus meaning, it didn’t always go in my favour but I could work with it. It’s surprising how many of the lessons I still pull out of the bag when need be. I can’t really say I’m a ‘go with the flow’ kind of gal, but I like to think I make a good ‘team’ player. I don’t need to be the heavy or even in control but I always want to have positive input and have my feelings known.

    • I think you have described the difference between being appropriately assertive and inappropriately aggressive, which is a fine line to walk at times, and one we all struggle with to some degree. I’ve been more guilty of being the micro-managing control freak, and it hasn’t helped that there have been a few times when Matt’s welfare probably depended on it to some extent. However, I do really believe that consensus is almost always possible if we can get past the fear — and that’s really what it is — that causes us to feel that we MUST manage everything or something terrible will happen. I think being a team player involves a bit of going with the flow while working toward consensus, and if that sounds like a juggling act, it is! 🙂 But you are right; it’s very damaging to be over-controlling, mostly for the person who’s trying to run things, but also for those who are easily intimidated.

      • Eric

        Talk about hot-button issues. His latest is entitled “Portrait of an Obama Nanny-State”.

        • Wow, I hadn’t heard of that one. That LaGard is such a milk-toast – why doesn’t he stick his neck out and get controversial once in awhile? 🙂

  5. Wow. What perfect timing. I definitely needed to hear this today of all days. Thank you.

    • I’m so glad it came at a good time! I have been thinking of you and wondering how things are going. I think teachers, particularly the really conscientious ones and those who work with younger kids, must have this conflict so often. From working in schools I have seen how so many hard-working teachers often feel unable to do all they would like to do. I am still LOVING my morning tea times, thanks to your generosity! Thanks for being here!

      • Aww! You’re welcome. The trip has been going lovely so far. A few mishaps (badly blistered toe somehow and a dinged rental car tail light). I was fretting quite fiercely last night over the tail light, so this entry was quite timely.

        • I would have been fretting over that too, that’s the sort of thing that bothers me far more than it should. Travel is fraught with mishaps but also such joys. I hope you have a wonderful time! Aloha and mahalo for being part of this ohana.

  6. What a beautiful photo. When you took it did you realize the variety of color and lighting you were capturing. I can close my eyes and be there. What a great thought too. It is very hard to let go and let God. I am keeping you in my prayers. I wanted to tell you that a woman at my church came up today and asked for an update on Jeff. She said that her daughter knew the two of you. I am guessing from Lipscomb. I didn’t get a chance to ask for the daughters name but her parents are Bill and Linda Dennis. They are a lovely couple and told me that their daughter has frequently asked about Jeff. Of course Dave and Bev asked about you all today as well. Dave did not know you were meeting up with, “Margaret” yesterday. I hope you got to see her. Love you all.

    • Hi Amy, YES we had lunch with Maggie whom I had not seen since 2005, over 8 years ago! It was so great to see her again after all these years of long-distance “chats.” And yes, I know Melinda and remember her very fondly – I actually knew her through Maggie before we were ever at Lipscomb together, but knew her best during those years when our husbands were in dental school together. We have been so blessed to have the love, prayers and concern from so many people we have known for years, as well as those we met only since coming to Virginia, and many whom we have never met! Re: the colors – that pool, as with so many that are artificially created, has that “fake blue-green water” look, which does contrast with the leaves. I’m guessing that is why I took the photo, but truthfully I don’t remember for sure, since I pretty well snap away whenever I’m anywhere as gorgeous as the Marina District in SFO. The Palace of Fine Arts (not a palace at all but a structure left over from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition) is itself so beautiful that I’m surprised it hasn’t already been on this blog; I’m sure it will be soon. I used to dream of having one of those homes in the Marina overlooking the Palace on one side and the Golden Gate Bridge on the other! Kind of like dreaming of being a Princess in terms of how realistic a dream that is!

      • As they say in Angels in the Outfield, “It could happen.”

        • 😉 If it does you will be the first to know – the room with the bay window will have your name on it!

  7. Personally, I believe strongly that if we keep going with the flow without asking too much why..we will enjoy more in Life.. of course we have our responsibilities but it’s our ability to go with the flow that will makes them sometimes not a true burden. Just to be able to take a break from all and sit in a field or at the beach watching the world go by is often a most rewarding time and give you tremendous energy to go on how heavy the load you carry might be.
    Have a peaceful day.
    groetjes, Francina

    • Yes, that’s something I am learning more and more as I get older (maybe I just get too tired to do otherwise! :-)) but I agree that we make our own troubles heavier when we spend a lot of time fretting over them. Thanks for your good wishes, I hope you have a peaceful day too!

  8. Mike Bertoglio

    I wrote something yesterday but forgot to submit it via the button? I think it is no,” anxious thought “for tomorrow as we have to make plans for the future. Anxious thoughts can rob us of present joy. Someone said don’t let tomorrow take up to much of today. It sounds kind of Buddhist with emphasis on fully living the moment-like the tea ceremonies. Mindfullness. A pastor said, -“by the yard life is hard, but by the inch it is a cinch.” I am a worrier by nature so I know a little about future- anxieties and all the “what ifs.”
    Are those red Lucifer Crocosmias in the foreground? Saw some yesterday on grounds of Riverside church in NYC.
    MB

    • I think that’s a good distinction to make; it’s impossible NOT to have thoughts of tomorrow, but “anxious thoughts” are what we need to avoid. The first time I read anything about Zen Buddhist philosophy I was struck by how much it sounded like the Sermon on the Mount. Jeff and I both tend to be worriers so we need to read that part of Matthew again and again. Re: the plants in the photo – I have NO IDEA what they were but I looked up Crocosmias (which I had never heard of) and it does look as if that might be what they were.

  9. Sheila

    Julia, so lovely. I agree with the comments others mentioned. Your photo is so perfect that I thought it must be a painting. We do seem to be bombarded by much, too much. Even in the grocery store, the selection is overwhelming. Nice sometimes, but is it necessary? Bill’s dad,
    at 91, recently made a profound analogy of where he is, “What’s to worry about?” I suppose that’s true….what will be, will be! Love, Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, that photo really does look like painting. In fact, years ago I was playing with that image and when I put the “watercolor” filter on it in Photo Express, it didn’t really change the appearance much at all. I had to look at it extra-close when I was writing the post, to make sure the one I put in was NOT the one I had altered. Re: too many choices – I read several years ago an essay by a psychologist who said that the high stress levels in America were due in large part to the many decisions we have to make daily, as a result of such choices. Everything from what laundry detergent to use, to what to have for dinner, to what we pull out of the closet to wear on any given day. He said that even small decisions involve a certain amount of stress because decision making is stressful in itself, even when the choices are all good ones. I thought that sounded quite reasonable and I know I have trouble making decisions. “Choice” is almost worshipped in our culture but it can become a problem too.

      • Eric

        The last sentence, wherein Julia replies to Sheila’s observation regarding choices impels me to plug a friend’s book, “When Choice Becomes God” by F. LaGard Smith. Though he progresses to a very serious subject, he begins with Howard Johnson’s 28 flavors of ice cream.

        • Yes, I was thinking of LaGard’s book when I wrote that reply. Has he had any new books out lately? I really like him.

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