Updated: May 29, 2022
New Year—new beginnings. Everyone thinks about this transition every year as one year rolls over into the other. Goals and resolutions are made, sometimes seriously, most often half-heartedly. Each year, we vow to start anew, set out on a different course in life and yet the course seems to remain the same with a few minor adjustments in trajectory. Here we go again. What course have you planned for this year?
We ask each other about the resolutions, the goals, the dreams of new beginnings, of fruition and culmination every year. We think about our own goals and intent, where we want to go with life, but ultimately, no one knows what lies ahead. A quote by John Lennon comes into mind, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.” Isn't that really what happens? We make goals and plans. We may achieve them, but in the long run, doesn't life just kind of happen? It has been that way for me. I can plan till the cows come home, and I might achieve some semblance of what I had planned, but it never turns out exactly as I had planned.
What I have noticed about my own life is that it seldom, almost never, turns out the way I expected or planned. I happen to meet, stumble onto, this person or that who becomes my best friend or a major contributor to my course in life, but meet another hoping he or she will be a close friend only to find that I've been betrayed by some unresolved selfishness. I think I am headed in one direction at school, or in my career, and I end up doing something I never expected to do in a place where I never expected to be. Yet there is always that familiar undercurrent of my original intent.
Sometimes, tragedy blows open a door to blessings that I would have missed if the tragedy had never occurred. Each time this happens a new chapter in life begins. Each time it happens, there are life lessons that I might not have learned had things been different. You would think, by this stage of life, I would have learned to trust that there is a power greater than myself directing the course, and that I need to stop being a back seat driver to that higher power. However, I still get frustrated when things don't go my way.
I wonder, as I write this, if I am the only one who tries to take over and drive the God car, but I suspect that I am not. My mind goes back to a time when I was driving around with a friend who was telling me every move to make, right down to infinite little details. It is fine to get some direction if I don't know my way, but when I know where I am, and what I'm doing, it gets a little disconcerting. I turned to him and said, “You know, I have been driving for almost 40 years, and I've been driving in this particular town for at least 10 years. Don't you think I should know what I'm doing by now?”
He put his seat in the total reclining position where he could only see the ceiling of my car. “What are you doing?” I asked, surprised at his behavior.
“The only way I can keep from telling you what to do is if I don't see the road,” he replied.
I laughed. “That's a unique solution to the problem, but if it works—okay.”
We got to our destination just fine, safely and on time. The truth is, there was probably an increased chance of something going wrong by having someone else trying to direct every move rather than just letting me do what I knew how to do.
It would have been pretty insane of him to continue telling me what to do when he couldn't see the road, but—not only have I tried to drive God's car, I did it when I definitely could not see the road. When we try to direct every thing that happens in our lives, things get screwed up, but when we just let go, put the seat back, relax and let God do the driving, life seems to take us where we need to be. We may not get there the way we thought we should, but we get there, eventually, and the ride is much more comfortable as a result.
This my friends, is what I have tried to learn almost all my life. I am probably the world's worst back seat driver when it comes to spiritual direction. I find myself repeatedly trying to tell God what to do. I have had to learn the lesson over and over again that, if I just shut up, put the seat back and relax, everything gets taken care of.
Trust is a difficult commodity to come by because it means relinquishing our thoughts of fear. Control is always based in fear. We do it when we are afraid things will get screwed up if we are not controlling matters ourselves. However, when we don't trust a higher power to know better than ourselves, things can and often do, get off course. In the meantime, rather than dictating spirit what is supposed to happen next, I need to put my feet to the ground and be prepared to do my part when it is presented.
What I have had to learn, and continue to work on learning, is that I don't know anything about driving God's car. When I try to control, especially the course of my life, things get screwed up, but if I just let go and trust that the divine will of a power greater than myself is going to see to it that things will happen as they should, then I always seem to manage to be where I need to be.
Step three in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous says, “We turned our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”
That means a couple of things. One thing it means is that we can change our understanding of God. I cannot turn my will and my life over to someone I don't trust. I must, therefore, have an understanding of God in which I know I am loved and that God's will is always for my greatest and highest good. The other thing it means is that I must let go and turn everything over to that God of my understanding. I have to relinquish my fear and trust that everything will be taken care of for me, maybe not my way or in my time frame, but it will be taken care of. In the meantime, I am allowed to submit all the requests I want. Some may be granted, some may not.
Years ago, I had the awareness that God had taken care of me in spite of myself, in spite of all the attempts I made to drive God's car. God had provided loving wonderful friends, teachers and guides, fun times, a roof over my head, food in my belly, a warm place to sleep and a way to pay the bills even when I thought I was going under. This had occurred despite my kicking and screaming, my demands for a different way and that I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. When that awareness came, I asked myself, “What might happen if I cooperate?” It is amazing how many times, since then, that I have forgotten that awareness and returned to my demands that life unfold according to my plans.
Life has never really unfolded according to my plans. There have been things I have wanted and wished for that have come to me in time, but never—not once—has it ever unfolded according to my specifications. The good news is that I long ago learned to follow the signs when I see them. The hard part is the waiting period, when I know that I am finished with one chapter in my life, but the next one has not yet begun. There is always a wilderness period before we enter into any promised land. We just have to make sure we trust that manna will fall from heaven when it is needed, and be sure that we don't return to the darkness and enslavement of our fear.
With this my friends, I wish for all of you the love, happiness, prosperity, and wonderment that every new year may hold for you. Go ahead, set your goals, make your resolutions, plan the way that you would like for it to go and then, let go. I have found, over time, what actually works best for me is to write down exactly what I want, read it every day and wait to see what happens. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. During the wilderness period, I try to maintain gratitude for every blessing that is mine. What I have found, with patience and gratitude, is that the surprises the universe presented to me, not only led me to wonderful lessons that I needed to learn, but led me to blessings that I never expected.