The Zero Sum Of 2017

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What is promise if not something that’s impossible to live up to? Promise is inchoate and promise is what binds us. Some of us died, some got sick, some got rich, some had bad luck, some of us were fortunate, more than others. But failed promise only truly fails when it leads to lowered expectation.
— C.J. Cregg, The West Wing, #413, “The Long Goodbye.

Another year is drawing to a close. 2017 has been a year of dizzying highs and terrible lows in varying degrees for each one of us.

Like the script above says, “Some of us died, some got sick, some got rich, some had bad luck, some of us were fortunate, more than others.”

- I remember those who were in my life who are not this year, having passed on to that realm beyond time.

- I think of my childhood friend in Denver whose son is hospitalized and going through multiple surgeries as the doctors try to fix the problem.

- I think of my colleague who just secured a large grant to do more amazing work with the organization that she leads.

- I think of a friend from my church whose partner and he became homeless this year.

- I think about my kids (a lot) and how much I love watching them grow and discover the world.

All of these memories, feelings, hopes, and fears culminate in my mind and heart as another year draws to a close to the point where they just kind of “cancel each other out,” and I end the year (spiritually and emotionally speaking) not in deficit, nor in surplus, but at a “realistic zero.”

C’est la vie (such is life).

For many years when I was a much younger man, driven by ambition and striving to be great at my craft, I remember always ending the year disappointed, as if I hadn’t done enough, been enough, or accomplished enough.

However, as I age I see that spirituality, faith (whatever you choose to call it) is not about “making things happen.” It’s all about “letting things happen,” and allowing ourselves to be shaped in the process.

We can buck it, sure. We can push back on it, sure- but that’s the easy way. It takes much more courage to embrace whatever good or bad we see enveloping us without being swayed by it.

We learn to become (as the Vedic tradition so beautifully puts it) “a candle that doth not flicker in the wind.”

My hope for you and yours in these final days of 2017 is that you would see life for what it really is- that you would accept and embrace all that is wonderful and all that is terrible about it.

There’s something in that for each of us.

We can spend ourselves silly trying to experience pleasure and/or avoid pain, but the true mark of spirituality is simply choosing to “be” in whatever triumph or circumstance we find ourselves in. Letting life “soak.” Letting things have their appropriate time, but not clinging to them as they pass us by.

Wherever you are in your life in this season- rich, poor, sick, struggling, winning, losing, remember that all that your life is can change in an instant, and all that we have to experience (and have to) experience is the now.

Until 2018.

Selah.


 
 Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.  Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.  Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.  Ryan is an  INTJ  on the MBTI and a  5w4  on the Enneagram.   

Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.

Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.

Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.

Ryan is an INTJ on the MBTI and a 5w4 on the Enneagram.

 

Ryan Phipps