Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths [Proverbs 3:5-6, NRSV].
Learning to Float
One of my favorite books is When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings by Thomas H. Green, S.J. (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1998). Fr. Green uses the image of floating to discuss God’s care for us and our response. Learning to float on water, he says, is surprisingly difficult. “[M]any people never learn how to float” because they “never learn to relax, to let their head be pillowed by the water” (p. 142). Fr. Green (1932–2009) lived in the Philippines and observed that even natives of those islands have trouble floating. “Learning to float is counterintuitive; we have to do the very opposite of what our self-preserving instincts urge us to do.” Floating, he says, is “essentially to learn to trust,” which is also difficult (pp. 142-143).
Swim or Float?
Floating makes for a thought-provoking metaphor. We must decide to swim or float, and we would prefer to do both, writes Green, because we want to make our own way through life but call upon God for help when we feel out of control. God, on the other hand, “wants us to have as our goal our total surrender to [God’s] tide” (p. 144-145). Floating is when we “are totally secure” in God’s love and can thus “float free” and allow God to guide us (p. 145).
Thinking along with Green, I wonder if we should think of floating not as a way to go through life in a passive way or a victimized way, but as a way of pursuing our various responsibilities and following our dreams while all the time calling upon and relying on God for guidance and providential leading. Proverbs 3:5-6 implies a mysterious relationship between our actions (our “ways”) and God’s grace (He will “make straight” our paths).
Unexpected Twists and Turns
I think of the numerous turns and paths of my life as I’ve sought God’s guidance. Several times over the years, opportunities I thought were wonderful were not or did not develop, while other, unexpected ones, appeared and were amazing. I’m sure it’s been that way for many others, too; one’s life does take unexpected twists and turns. I’ve even praised God for answered prayer for circumstances, only to find those circumstances fall apart and THEN lead to something better.
Call me a “floater” who is also anxious, fussy and uncertain as I try to float! Fr. Green assures us it’s not easy to trust God. But as we grow in our trust in God, we can see many ways that we and our loved ones have been guided.
Dr. Paul Stroble, paulstroble.com
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