“You know how it is. Sometimes
we plan a trip to one place,
but something takes us to another…
God fixes a passionate desire in you,
and then disappoints you.
God does that a hundred times!” – Rumi
“You know how it is.” You want something. I want something. We are fixated on it, we want it so badly.
“We plan a trip to one place,
but something takes us to another…”
I see so many examples of easy spirituality on the web. I don’t think Rumi considered the spiritual path easy. It’s not as easy as deciding what we want, then deciding that God placed that desire in us, and then, when we are disappointed, deciding that God is testing us, and that if only we pass this test, our desire will be achieved. Oh – if only it were that simple, if only we could manipulate God that way, if only we held the Universe in the palm of our hand, to shape to our fancy.
I know what it’s like to want something badly, don’t you?
For a long time, I wanted a life partner. That’s what I thought would make me happy. I fashioned the person in my mind: someone who would understand me, who would enjoy doing the things I enjoy, someone who could explore intellectually with me, and someone to whom I was wildly attracted, of course! The list was all about what I wanted, and didn’t include – as I consider it now – anything about who I would be as a partner. But, there it was, the List, the list of the perfect partner. I wanted that; I wanted him.
I wanted him to relieve my loneliness, to always be present to me. So many long evenings, I sat on my red velvet couch in my lonely apartment, going through my phone book, looking for someone to call, someone to relieve the loneliness.
For a long time, that is how I lived. Caught in the cycle of my unconscious desires, I thought that was how I had to live. That’s all life was for me. Is that all there is?
And then, for some reason, I surrendered to it. I surrendered to the loneliness, to the ever-present solitude of my life, to the life of complete alone-ness I seemed to have. I don’t know why I surrendered, but I do remember the very place I was when I raised my hands into the air and said: “ok, God, if this is what you want, this is what it is.” I can picture myself at that moment, driving into the alley behind the apartment building that held my one lonely, solitude-infested apartment. I expect I will always remember that moment of surrender.
The loneliness did not end. I made a sort of peace with the loneliness, though, at that point. Or maybe I made a sort of peace with God (for the moment! that dance never ends!). I knew that the loneliness would raise its head from the pillow from time to time, and so I accepted that I would embrace it, whenever it arose, whenever it was awakened. That, too, was an acceptance.
I can say, now, many years later, that I am grateful. I am grateful for the one life I have been given, for the one life I am privileged to have lived, to be living. I can also say that the moments of pain and sadness and sorrow and anger and grief and, yes, loneliness, have continued. I know now that they are part of life. The moments of pain and sadness and sorrow and anger and grief and loneliness do not tell me that God has abandoned me, or that I have abandoned my path. No, those moments are part of the path. They are part of me, part of this one life I have been given.
Even so, I am grateful.
This ever-disappointing God:
“God fixes a passionate desire in you, and then disappoints you…”
We are people who like to control outcomes, although, truth is, the outcome of any given action or intention or desire cannot be controlled. God cannot be controlled. We want to shape God into a shape that fits into our little box – we are ever-inclined to want to understand the workings of this Universe – and we learn, once again, that this God, this Universe is far beyond our understanding, and even farther beyond our ability to control.
And all we can do – if we can stretch that far, sometimes, not always – is to be grateful, to lift our feeble arms into the air to say: “yes!” Come what may.