OPINION – A friend recently posed the question: “Would you rather have your life planned out or go with the flow?” I had to stop and think about my answer for a while.
Having spent a number of my younger years happily drifting along with the passing current, I can attest to the importance of setting and working toward goals. However, I find validity in the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”
By this, I mean that even our best laid plans should have enough flexibility to adapt to an ever-changing world. The steam that keeps us moving ahead is the result of choosing to live with purpose.
As someone who spent far too long resisting the unrelenting forces of change in my own life, I’ve found greater happiness in being flexible enough to roll with the changes. Of course, not all challenges are created equal.
So far this year, my family has experienced career change, relocation to a new city and a new grandchild, and now our oldest son is leaving to serve a two-year church mission. There have been lots of highs and lows, to put it mildly.
The single greatest factor in finding peace of mind along the way has been the conscious decision to set aside our fears and to concentrate on living with purpose. It hasn’t made our lives trouble-free, but it sure has made it easier to recognize what’s going right.
It’s a strategy I’d recommend to anyone who is tired of living in a constant state of fear.
Sometimes that fear is internal; often it is directed at us from external sources like a mass media fear delivery system. Whether it’s the threat of terrorists, immigrants, political foes or an impending war with a nuclear-armed power, we’re constantly being told who and what to fear.
This isn’t exactly a new dilemma. What the fearful are lacking is needed perspective.
In his essay “On Living In the Atomic Age,” C.S. Lewis brilliantly answered the question of how to live in the age of potential nuclear annihilation by pointing out that it should be no different than living through outbreaks of the plague in the 16th century or during the age of Viking raids.
He also noted that we already live in an age of cancer, disease, paralysis, air raids, railway accidents and car crashes.
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
The point Lewis was making wasn’t a fatalistic admission of defeat. It was a call for each of us to pull ourselves together and to stop allowing fear to dictate what our lives would be. It was a timely reminder that in a world where a simple microbe can prove our undoing, our minds need not be dominated by things over which we have no control.
This isn’t the same thing as burying our heads in the sand and pretending everything is just fine. It’s the reminder that, despite all the ways that human life can end, we each have the ultimate say over how our lives are to be lived.
If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things – praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts – not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.
This is the real challenge of our time. How can we live our lives in such a way that we aren’t being artificially stunted by the magnification of our fears?
If we allow our focus to be directed primarily toward those things which we are told are a threat to us, we tend to operate in a mindset of fear. On the other hand, if we direct our focus towards those opportunities to improve the world in our immediate vicinity, we tend to find hope and purpose.
This is a choice we must make for ourselves. It’s astonishing how many people delegate that moral authority to whatever information source they prefer to access.
What we focus on tends to grow. Why would we choose to invite more fear and less hope into our lives?
Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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