Image of a world where everything is predictable
How much simpler everything would be if the others thought like me! At times it seems that people are there to make things complicated… It would be so easy if everyone reasoned like me: no more friction, no more misunderstandings or fights, no more stress; we’d all act the same way, live the same way. What do you think? No one could say anymore: “I disagree with you!” No one could propose to me something new for my life: I would already know everything; I’d already know their ideas. No more novelty, no surprises, no stimuli… total calm. Right, because in this situation no one would have new things to learn: everything would be so completely… predictable. Imagine a world like this. He tells her, “My dear, look at your new birthday present!” And she responds, “I know what it is already… We think exactly the same…”
Are you smiling yet? Sure a world like this would be absurd. And yet… And yet some of us seek people who think and act like we want. We seek to establish relationships where every difficulty is overcome by a reassuring sameness. And the others? “The others don’t understand! It’s better to be just us, it’s simpler. Who is going to make us change? Perhaps we’ll find someone different from us and then what will we do? It’s better just to let it go…” We prefer not to risk and close ourselves in our own little shell with whoever shares our “ideas.” And God? We’d even like to put Him in a box, without too many changes of scenery, without too much noise, a God who’s half-asleep. I remember my eighteenth birthday. I liked to pray, to talk about God with the others, but nothing more. Turning to Him in secret I said, “Hey now! No joking around! Praying is ok, but a Vocation… no, thank you… I know what’s best for me.” I wanted a predictable God who was another me and not an Other from me. I was his brains, and he merely had to be my
“right hand man.”
False myths of a relationship always “under control”
At this point a question arises spontaneously: Why does it assure us to predict? Why does diversity scare us? Because something predictable is controllable. For example, if I predict that this road that I’m about to take is jammed with traffic, I can control the situation and change roads. Something similar happens with other people. For example, it’s already been a few times that Laura “made her angry face” when her husband Alan came home late for dinner. When it happens again, Alan knows what to say the next time because he has foreseen her condemning attitude. Thus he will prepare a proper answer. What would happen if instead as Alan was coming home late he saw her run up and hug him Perhaps he’d be confused because the situation would be out of his control in that moment. He’d have a feeling of vertigo: for an instant, he’d lose control of the situation. Control could also mean manipulation. If in fact Laura makes her angry face, Alan will use the occasion to complain about all that his wife fails to do for him, wounding her deeply. Predicting, controlling, will give Alan the possibility of also manipulating the situation turning it to his own advantage by an accusing attitude. This won’t happen in the case where Laura takes on an unpredictable attitude. Even if predicting, controlling, assures us, in the long run this way of living will be an obstacle to love, and people will distance themselves from us. We don’t have to fear diversity and the fact that others
The taste of otherness
Where is the beauty of otherness?
* First of all in the fact that if we let the other be other from us and accept his diversity, we discover that this can enrich us enormously. How many times the precious help of a friend let us read a situation with new eyes so that we discovered a side of reality that we hadn’t considered? It is good and liberating to be helped to see life and discover it from a new angle.
* The fact then that the other can question our ideas and our ways of behaving helps us to grow and correct ourselves. We don’t even realize how many times the aggressive way we use words, or how we ask questions can be inappropriate. Thank goodness there’s someone beside us who helps us see where we can improve and, (why not?) also our good traits! We are so good sometimes at hiding them from ourselves without even realizing it.
* And then if the other is truly other from me, he has the freedom to respond positively or negatively to my requests; he can even say no! And it’s not bad or wrong if he does. He simply exercises his freedom to choose.
And so it is with God. He is truly an Other with a capital “O” and we can’t control or manipulate him. He also can say no to our requests and disapprove of our decisions. I have often heard it said, even by believers, that: “If God gives me this grace, all right, otherwise I won’t believe in his love any more…” If God always said yes to our will, what freedom would He have? Precisely because he’s free, he can respond differently from our expectations. This is how I know God is different from me: because he initiates a relationship of freedom with me. He does not oblige me nor is he obligated. This is truly beautiful because if we let God be God we discover that He is unpredictable.
God is The Novelty and I have the impression that he never repeats himself in the way he comes to us.
When I waited under the olive tree, he came under the apple.
When I waited in church, he came in the city.
When I sought in joys, he came in my tears.
When I stopped waiting for him, I found him unexpectedly in front of me.
God always surprises me and his timing is definitely not my own. (Carlo Carretto)
God is the Unexpected One, the “always new”, the surprise. He forgives when you condemn yourself; he heals your wounds when you hide them. He hugs you when you can’t look him in the eyes. And then he disappears when “all is well,” when you feel “perfect,” and you’d expect a prize, and He… isn’t there. “But Lord! Aren’t you here to reward me?” “You are too full of yourself,” he seems to reply unexpectedly. “There’s no room for me.” That’s how God is… “God, I prayed a ton for that person, and you didn’t listen to me!” We can’t see, but the Lord always answers our prayers in His freedom, as He wills, and not as we expect. No prayer is ever lost. Let’s let ourselves be surprised by God. Otherwise he will come and we won’t recognize him because we are expecting him under another guise. Hasn’t that already happened? We expected a King and a Child was born. History repeats itself.
Sr. Simona Panico
I will look at people and God as if for the first time, letting them be who they are, without interrupting them when they speak, listening to what they have to say, knocking down walls and prejudices, without thinking “He’s like that. I’ll know what she’ll say, He’ll never change” I want to stop and see the positive traits that I don’t see anymore.