outcomes: not mine to manage

Posted: June 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

Within the past 48 hours, two people who I love, respect, and look to for wisdom have used the same simple expression, that seems to have been a comfort to them…that I don’t understand.  One was amidst a discussion of someone whose life choices have been regrettable to the extent of tragic and kind of horrifying.  The other was when sharing that someone had ended their own life. 

The small sentence that has me so confounded?  “They made their choice.”  It seemed pretty clear to me in both cases that this brief bit of pointed logic provided both of the people speaking with a sense of comfort or order or something.  For the life of me, I cannot find any comfort in it – it’s just not a helpful phrase to me at all.  I keep going back and back to it, picking at it, trying to find the life in it, and for now, it doesn’t seem to be within my grasp.

I bring this up, not as a criticism at all, but because it reminds me again that we cannot always borrow comfort from another.  It’s an important thing to know, whether we are the ones looking for comfort, or the ones offering it.

I met with friends tonight who are amidst their own struggle.  While I tend to be highly resistant to offering “advice” – I’m much more comfortable with empathetic listening and a whole lot of praying – in this case, I did have a few nuggets to offer.  I wondered, while I was doing so, if what I was offering made as little sense to them as “They made their choice” made to me.  Later, another friend joined us, and had almost exactly the same bits to offer.  That gave me hope that perhaps the things I had offered might be palatable, well-timed, fitting to the situation.

But really, I’m pretty sure it’s not up to me to worry about making it fit.

I don’t think we get to control which things gel well and which ones don’t, as we are sharing.  I think the best we can offer is the best we can offer (oooo profound – not!) and if we try to take ownership of the process to the point of needing it to “work” or “make sense” or just generally be well-received, we are bound to feel inadequate. 

As for me, I have not written off “They made their choice” as a BAD offering.  I have hope that a time will come when it will suddenly make sense to me, when I will be able to reach out and grasp it.  Those loved ones were the faithful sowers of the word.  Now it’s up to me and God to work out the matter of me absorbing it. 

This has been one of my favorite recurring lessons in the last year or two:  outcomes are not my business.  Faithfulness is.  I am to walk as faithfully as I know how.  Speak out as faithfully as possible.  Serve as faithfully as can be managed.  The effects of my faithfulness?  That is GOD’S business and not mine.  I don’t think faith is about measuring outcomes.  He’s the outcome guy. 

Just for tonight, that brings me great comfort…and if it makes no sense to you at all…hey, I understand that, too! 


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