Longing and powerlessness, held together in one breath, in and out, the yin and yang of life
A rich and insightful guest blog from Mike Temple…
Longing and powerlessness, held together in one breath, in and out, the yin and yang of life. I have supposed before that God is that longing, not simply the subject of the desire, but the longing itself. That which is God within us, longing for the consummation of being reconciled, reunited with God without. But what if God is also powerlessness? After all, isn’t that what Christ, God the Son, demonstrated through the cross?
But what does that mean for us? For humanity, as with Jesus, it’s not the powerlessness of our inability to do or change something – it goes beyond that. We are empowered to do and be what we can do and be, but we are powerless to change or dictate the response to, or outcome of, our action or inaction. In this context, powerlessness is consenting to accept what is, held in perfect tension with the longing for what is not.
Does this mean all of our choices or actions are futile? Certainly not. For example, a violent, aggressive, confrontational encounter with another is much more likely to elicit a similar response. So we, each of us, have the potential to create different outcomes, but consenting to powerlessness moves us to accept whatever outcome prevails.
Choosing powerlessness in the moment, that willingness not to fight for a longed for outcome, to accept what e’re may come, in tension with the acknowledged presence and validity of the desire of longing, opens the door to creativity and new possibilities, whilst accepting that the outcome might in fact not change at all!
Longing and powerlessness are realities both, whether we choose to fight for them or against them, accept them or ignore them, they exist in and as each of us. Many spend great portions of their life in pursuit of fulfilment of the longing, or attempting to overcome powerlessness, and often both. As the years become filled with disappointment, loss, pain, abandonment and betrayal, those who have eyes to see and hearts soft enough to change, grow in their acceptance of the longing and their powerlessness to meet it. Others may simply give up, lose heart and energy for the pursuit of their longing or for sustained effort to exert control over their powerlessness. Others go down swinging, fighting for what they desire, or against what they do not, unwilling to accept defeat, as they see it, unwilling to surrender.
In every case, the longing never leaves us and our powerlessness never relents. The sooner we can learn to live with both, twin siblings beyond our control, who may still clash and fight for our attention, the sooner we can find the peace beyond understanding, the joy of abundance, the fulfilment of living the life which has been gifted to us.
On a personal note, I have made the mistake of equating what I do with my labour, with the act that will bring fulfilment of that longing, a thirst which can never be fully quenched. That is too much pressure for any calling to bear. If I can find that peace and joy in spite of what I labour upon, and not because of it, then what I spend my life doing becomes inconsequential, though certainly not irrelevant.
I was moved by a line from Charles Eisenstein’s The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible this week – “The sky starts, where the ground ends.” If we, and by we I mean me, are constantly looking at the sky with longing, we will not, cannot see what has been ‘here all along’ on the ground. The challenge is living in that place where ground meets sky, where longing coexists with powerlessness. We can learn much from the trees, who’s roots reach down into the ground, and who’s branches stretch up to into the sky. Maybe this is where I shall begin, with considering the trees which surround me in the clearing in the forest.