Living As If: The Possibilities of Every Unconsidered Gift, Considered

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Living as if requires leaving behind the strict rationality that tells us we must deal with only and exactly what is. Living as if encourages us to consider what might be. It takes practice, more for some of us, less for others. We can all practice and we can all learn to orient ourselves to what will be, what can be. We can live as if.

Living as if means we are open to reconsidering what we once thought to be true. We can be open to new truths. We can be open to hearing anew the legend, story, music, the lyrics and the poetry of our lives, as if there is something there we have not heard before. 

Back in the day when this wearying world didn’t feel so threatening on every level… back in the decades of our great collective innocence when we expected enlightenment to come upon us successively uninterrupted… back in those days there was a time when we talked about stages of development. We tried to locate ourselves near—if not on—the highest rung of spiritual maturity. We believed that stage after stage of wisdom naturally unfolded in a linear fashion always yielding more peace and harmony, more inclusion. It is threatening to our very core, to realize—as many of us have—that this expectation was so wrong. We haven’t become who we thought we would.

What we believed now feels like a mistruth. We haven’t moved forward as we expected. Pandemics, a rising authoritarianism, even fascism, greed, and division threaten us all. 

A deeper dive into the theories of faith development reveals that one never really moves to the next stage without a very compelling reason to do so; without a frustration so complete and so compelling that we know it as a crisis of faith.

If you study development stages in children, if you observe faith development in adults, you will find there is always a crisis point, a breakdown that shakes up the certain satisfaction with the state you were in; that smashes the rigidity, the idolatry of the belief system that functioned (often well) in your previous way of understanding and of dealing with life. It is in the midst of the crisis that we find our past systems of belief showing  themselves to be inadequate to present realities. 

It is the breakdown in our meaning-making systems that either propels us into further rigidity and a resulting attempt to eliminate all that would thwart our preservation of what was, or we are offered a breakup that allows possibilities not yet considered to open us to giving life new meaning and purpose.

The crisis comes when one no longer has good answers for how one fits or doesn’t fit in this body, in this world, in this community, or in this family anymore. 

The feeling of loss can be overwhelming. Yet there is also longing; longing to belong. If we can choose to engage loss in a way that allows for longing for self-compassion, then we will be propelled beyond the breaking point. 

This isn’t just about smashing idols. It isn’t just about bringing down graven images of Columbus, or whatever has become rigid truth for you. It is about telling new stories, or retelling the old stories in new ways.

We must have a new story of Thanksgiving; we know that. 

And we must choose to act as if

We can reframe what feels overwhelmingly disorienting during the crisis of our day, during our time of dis-ease.

We can receive the always-available gift of grace and forgiveness, and practice self-compassion; love for our longing to be with. We can act as if  every next moment is a new opportunity to begin again in love.

Years ago, in a depressed state, I sought out a counselor, ultimately asking why I had yet to become the person I was told I would be; I could be. Why was I so afraid to be that person?

I had, at that stage in my life, this recurring image of diving deep into the ocean and finding a treasure chest that I could not open. Again and again, in my dreams I would be underwater, knowing there was something within the locked box that I could see, but could not open.

My counselor wasn’t at all interested in my constant questioning about why this was my truth, my lament.   

She was way more invested in offering me a way forward.    

Again and again she asked if I might act as if; act as if I were already the person I wanted to be. 

What would I do if I was not the fearful, depressed person I had become, but instead the courageous, hopeful, self-affirming person who had unlocked the treasure? 

The idea of being someone else seemed as far away as the stars to me.

[Today] Nancy Brungard sang, “Ideas are like stars… they’d teach you to fly without wires or thread. They promise if only you’d let them.” 

Listen for the language of longing. Possibilities present themselves over and over every day.  We can choose to act as if. We can reframe what we expect to happen. I expect this day, this drive home, that I will not see the brilliant fall leaves of last Sunday, but rather bare branches, so indicative of waiting and longing for spring. The possibilities of sheltering in expectant silence, of reading, of learning to be gentle with myself and my loved ones, present themselves. Learning to wait with hope for what will soon be liberates me. 

Acting as if opens the door to the next place made sacred by our yes. That is how we fulfill the promise of our humanity.

This Thanksgiving, we can reframe our expectations… how it might go well?… how might we learn something that we didn’t know before? How can we do what we do as if we will be who we want to be after the experience?

Act as if positive outcomes are waiting for you. Acting as if opens the door to the future. 

We are here to give the future to each other.

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