“My perspective is that you should be IN the world but not OF the world.”
– Dave Davies, Musician
It seems fair to say that at times, it is difficult, at best, to be in the world, and not of it. As I sit with this thought, experiences come to mind and my heart becomes filled with gratitude as I see, or see again, that my greatest moments (those accompanied by peace, joy, and a sense of freedom and well-being), have been those that the world could not give.
We live in a world where we have so many choices and so much available to us, pretty much all the time. It seems as if we have become conditioned, to start with “What do I want?” rather than, “What do I need?” and “What is truly good for me, and for those around me?” Yet, when I reflect on being in the world and not of the world as well as on experiences that have embodied peace, joy, and well-being, I realize that so many of them started out with me not getting what I wanted (or what I thought I wanted so much). They also culminate with me getting what I needed most even though I did not realize it from the start. In between the two, not getting what I want and getting what I need, the difference maker in terms of how bumpy the road has been seems to have been dependent on where God was in the mix.
The times where I kept trying to push through and “make things happen,” have been times where I have experienced frustration upon frustration. It was only when I let go, stepped outside the tunnel, and looked around that I saw how stuck I was on what I wanted or what I thought we (God and I) wanted, and that somehow I had managed to leave God behind while I continued pursuing “the dream.” I imagine that God has had many a light-hearted chuckle over those times as God has waited for me to come back around; and, although I may not have found it funny at the time, as I look back, I feel like God and I can chuckle about it together now.
As I continue to look, the times where I paused at any roadblocks or unforeseen circumstances, instead of trying to forge ahead with all my might, have been the times where I have not only asked, but have also let God be with me, with an openness, and have let God be God. These times have also been the times where I have not felt pressured one way or another and have been able to wait until I had a better sense of what way to go, or what to say or do.
Part of Jesus prayer for the Apostles was, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.” I imagine that this is also part of Jesus’ prayer for us.
So how can I manage to be in the world, but not of the world? My experience tells me that while forging ahead with grit and fortitude has led me to some bumpy roads, it has also, when preceded and accompanied by prayerful pauses and listening, led me to smooth roads with pretty amazing views. My experience tells me that it is fine, as long as my eyes and my ears, my head and my heart, are fixed on God.
“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal
of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and
pleasing and perfect.” – Rom 12:2