I recently participated in my first Church retreat. It opened with an exercise where each participant drew a seashell out of a pile of seashells. Written inside each shell was one word. The facilitator then asked each of us to say how this one word connects with our lives.
My word was Mystery.
As I sat pondering the word, I couldn’t help thinking about all the dots in my life that have connected to bring me here.
Connect-the-dot puzzles are a great way to teach kids how to count, and see that there can be order in the apparent chaos of a bunch of dots on a page.
Our lives can seem like a collection of random experiences, decisions, non-decisions, near-misses, lucky chances, chance encounters, crazy ideas, mundane thoughts, risky ventures, explorations, challenges, victories, losses, successes, failures, limitations, beliefs, non-beliefs, triumphs, heartbreaks, new directions, people, places and things.
These are our dots.
We create some of the dots, but most of them are already there, waiting for us to connect.
Which dot comes next? Do we choose, or is it chosen for us? Is there a pattern, or at least some path, in all these dots? I like to think we have something to do with deciding which dot comes next, but certainly not everything.
Nearly every major turning point in my life (good and bad, but mostly good) was unplanned. Sure, I may have been prepared to capitalize, but the actual “dot” came out of nowhere, often by chance.
To paraphrase a quote from The Way (a movie I highly recommend, by the way), “You don’t choose a life, you live it.” We all make plans, and try to map out where we’re headed. The truth is, we don’t have as much control over things as we’d like to think.
Letting go of the illusion of control is a big step toward happiness.
The happiest people I know live their lives as a verb, rather than something to be controlled, or pondered in the past tense. They are always seeking, always learning, always renewing. They usually spend a lot of time serving others. They don’t know which dot comes next, but they’re open to the possibilities.
I can see some big dots in my future, but I know there are a bunch I don’t see. That’s the great mystery that makes life so awesome.