We are all control freaks. We get anxious when the unexpected happens. We feel safest with predictability, which is why we are so resistant to change, even positive changes. Afraid to let our guard down, we assume the worst instead of the best, setting into motion negative self-fulfilling prophecies. Thus, the true and essential work of all counseling, meetings, religion and self-help programs is to help us affirm our goodness, that is Godness, in everything and everyone, including ourselves.
When we approach life from a negative perspective, we program ourselves for fear. When we approach life believing in the essential goodness of all things, we allow ourselves to become the person we already are, a beloved and valued part of God, Eternal Goodness. Genesis 1, says over and over that God looked at his creation, and said, “That’s good!” Genesis 1 also tells us we are created in God’s image, that is God is reflected back into all things, not just a few select human beings. You see, divine dignity is not reserved just for the worthy, but everyone and everything. Controlling behavior designates some as better than others, but we are all equally worthy, as worthiness is the very essence of life. Happiness and satisfaction come as we accept our essential Godness, enabling us to live into who we already are.
How do we become who we already are, a beloved child of God, of the universe? By making a daily, hourly, minute by minute choice to focus on the good, true, and lovely that is always around us. To actively choose to be grateful for everything, even that which seems difficult, boring, terrible, painful, depressing. Why? Because there is always some form of goodness hidden in everything. Finding it helps us become happier, more grounded, serene and humble. Every challenge carries within it the possibility for greater understanding, growth, and recognition of the hidden gift emerging from even the most terrible events. Think of the Marshall Plan following World War II, as one example.
The Apostle Paul spoke of faith, hope and love, as characteristics of our essential goodness, as these character traits are deeply implanted in each of us. One way of discerning the meaning of life is by making these virtues ( faith, hope and love) the focus of life. I will be forever grateful to the 12 Step Program for helping me discover the essential Godness/goodness in myself. Over time, by working the steps, I trust that everything has meaning and purpose and holds together. I now believe there is meaning to what happens even when I can’t see it. The steps have provided a way for me to trust in the essential coherence in life. Hanging on to faith and trust is essential when nothing seems to make sense. By working the steps, I have learned it is safe to trust things will work out for the good. By grounding my very essence in my belief in essential goodness, I find it is safe to risk loving and being loved.
While I still struggle with control issues (fear), I also know from long experience, the more I let go and let God, the better off I am. By grounding myself in our essential goodness, faith, hope, and love remind me it is not my job to run the world. My job is to become more and more who I already am, a beloved and essential part of God, in the goodness of the divine.
Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church.