I used to believe everything in my life was a product of God doing it. I thought it was selfish and simply incorrect to believe anything otherwise. Before saying things that I would hope to occur or want to occur, I would say “If God wills…”
I used to float through my life. Floating and floating and waiting for things to happen to me and then credit them to God. I think this was really good in the way in taught me to be open to life, to be open to its ebbs and flows and sparks. But I see how it created an apathy in me, a lack of responsibility, a lack of belief in agency in myself, a disregard for the ways my whiteness and maleness and cis-ness and physical ability and education and basic character traits have led to a lot of the things I have in my life.
I wonder how that felt to some of my friends, to my friends who were not white or male or cis. Would they so blankly credit my achievements to God too? Or would they peel back the curtain in their mind and see how a society that lifted me up and held them down, probably had a lot to do with it too.
I listened to an interview with Dr. Condoleezza Rice yesterday. She said this:
“I have a very strong belief that preparation counts, that you do have to work hard. But that it also matters where you are and who you meet and being at the right place at the time —so you should never ever take for granted what you have been given and what you have been able to achieve. You should never assume that it was just through your own smarts and because you were so much better than everybody else that you got there. There were so many people who were as good as you were, maybe even better, who never quite made it to that place and I try very hard to remember that I have been good, but I’ve been lucky and fortunate and blessed too.”
Last fall I was on a road trip around the US and waist deep in Mari Andrew’s book, “Am I There Yet?”. My Christian self felt guilty for reading it. As if her not-Christianness (or at least not-spelled-out-Christianness) was going to corrupt me and throw me into the hot place below. So much of Mari’s book is about how we have agency over our lives and have control over who and what we become.
I thought that was horseshit. I thought that was treason.
I remember laying out on my friend’s couch in Memphis when I finally gave myself up to this idea in Mari’s book. That I, in fact, have agency over myself. That I, standing at this precipice of life, having quit a career job a couple months before and now driving my car around to figure it out — was able to do the figuring out, that I was able to choose.
I so wholeheartedly believe in that voice I know in my chest, that spark, that light, that blooming that has carried me to so many places and to so many experiences. I know it to be true and real and my closest connection to the Divine.
Though I believe less now that God is out and about puppeteering my body into this and that. I believe it’s a dance that requires us both. That the Divine taps things into my heart, into my chest, into my body, and that I must choose to move my legs.
That yes, without question, I believe that God, the Divine, has laid out some of the fantastic and whimsical and magical and path-changing happenings in my life. And I also I believe it’s important to, in this perspective, paint a responsibility over oneself and one’s live. To simply believe that life is done to you, removes your responsibility from the result. Which is a bunch of BS. We are responsible for ourselves. We are responsible to pick ourselves up when life and God and circumstances and whatever throw us down. We are also responsible for the things we do to other people. We bear a responsibility for both all the good and all the bad things we do as a result of a Divine call or just a plain personal choice.
So this is what I am telling myself now, on this Thursday morning:
I know I will forever try and try again to see the ways my society and my place in it has led to my successes. I will remain open to that so that I can see the way it does the opposite for others and fight to equalize the injustice. That will demand listening and **believing what I hear** and acting upon it and giving up what I have.
I believe that I have capacity to, within so many dimensions, make the life that I want. I get to choose what I do with my time, what places I put myself, who I allow in my space, what I think about, how I let outside things affect inside me, etc.
Like Dr. Rice said, I will be aware of the ways that for so many things in my life, I have simply been lucky, been in the right place in the right time, said the right things, been the recipient of rich blessings.
And I will continue to tackle my life with an openness that I believe has in so many ways gotten me to where I am at. My choice to wade through the uncertainty and instability of life so that I can remain open to the voice and the sparks within myself, and have the courage and the space to chase them.
It’s a dance. A fun one.