Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 84; 148, 1 Kings 11:26-43, James 4:13-5:6, Mark 15:22-32
My paternal grandmother had a habit of concluding any talk about future plans with a “God willing.” As a kid I thought it seemed unnecessarily pessimistic and cast any life events more than a couple weeks out under the shadowy gloom of imminent death. At times it seemed almost superstitious, like tossing spilled salt over your shoulder – except it was a spill of hopes and dreams that needed protecting. Had I paid more attention to the Epistle of James, I might have felt differently:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.”
Grandma didn’t have an easy childhood, and knew hardship well into adulthood. She had more than her share of disappointments and regrets, of dreams and hopes which evaporated like mist, many of which I didn’t appreciate or learn about until I was an adult. Using “God willing” like ending punctuation was more than a superstition; it was a reflection of her life experience. The negativity I associated with it? That was on me.
Today I understand “God willing” as a humble admission of our own limitations. A prayer even. Not a reflexive, superstitious prayer like knocking wood to stave off bad luck, or crossing yourself to ward off the malocchio. More a moment of deference to a God we love and trust whether or not our plans materialize – because our plans are frail things to stand on and our God is powerful and loving enough to catch us when they shred beneath our feet. A brief prayer approaching perfect contemplation when we are grateful and content with what we have in the present moment and expect nothing further.
As the future unfolds into the present, let us pray such prayers. God willing, of course.
Comfort: Whether or not your plans work out, God is with you.
Challenge: Talk with a parent, grandparent, or other older relative about something they do which doesn’t make sense to you. Do this in a spirit of trying to understand.
Prayer: Thy will be done. Amen.
Discussion: Are there any things about your family that make more sense to you now than they did when you were younger?
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