The Power of Acknowledging Our Limitations

It’s been a quiet couple of months as I worked hard to wrap up my ministry in Los Angeles, prepare for my move across the country, and began settling in.  I arrived in New Jersey last Saturday evening, found a place to live yesterday, and am preparing for my first day of work next Monday.

So how have I been through this time of transition?

The short answer is mostly well.  While there were certainly moments of uncertainty and anxiety, I was pleasantly surprised by how well I have lived through the series of challenges.

What was the secret to negotiating this time?

To answer that question, I will use my Twelve Step language.  The secret was embracing Step One.  For those unfamiliar with the Twelve Steps, Step One says (in the language of Codependents Anonymous): “We admitted we were powerless over others – that our lives had become unmanageable.”  Those 13 words save my sanity and serenity more times than I can count.

How?

Over the past two months, there were dozens of questions with which I had to grapple.  Here are just a few:

  • How would my congregants respond to news of my departure?
  • How would the folks in the conference I am coming to receive me?
  • How would I handle making a cross-country move entirely by myself?
  • How would I first find – and then set up – a household in a part of the country I had never been to before?

These were just a few of the questions that were my constant companions.

My Twelve Step work taught me that I could not accept responsibility for creating the answers to the questions – for there were many parts of the answers that were far beyond my control.  Let me give you two examples of what I mean.

I couldn’t accept responsibility for how my congregants in LA felt about my departure.  That was because I knew two things: (1) the congregants had a right to their feelings; and (2) I was not responsible for their feelings (i.e., if they were sad or mad, it was not MY fault they were sad or mad). That clarity made it much easier to be present with them in the days leading up to my departure.

I also had to reject the notion that if the move was to go successfully, it was entirely up to ME.  I had to remind myself each day that my job was to simply show up to each situation as best I could – using the knowledge and abilities I had.  I also had to make peace with the fact that my knowledge and abilities alone couldn’t guarantee things would go well.  There were a lot of variables involved in the process that I could do nothing about.  I might fill out an application for housing perfectly, for example, and hand it to a leasing agent that HATED Californians.  Most days I took a deep breath, relaxed, and acknowledged my limitations.  Then I leaned into the presence of my Higher Power (which I call God) and trusted that God would provide me with the presence and support I needed in order to negotiate the unexpected.  That is exactly what has happened.

So why am I sharing this with you?

Chances are I am not the only one going through major transitions in life right now.  Maybe you are too.  When we bump into those uncertain places, it’s easy to respond to our anxiety by trying to double down and force things to unfold in the time and manner we think they must.  In my experience, such an approach is a recipe for disaster.

If you can follow the wisdom of Step One and honestly acknowledge your limitations, not only can you achieve a sense of peace.  You might even be able to get out of your own way and allow your Higher Power to bring forth things that are FAR better than anything you ever imagined … 

About Pastor Craig

I'm a 55-year-old who currently lives in Los Angeles, CA but will soon be moving to New Jersey. I'm an ordained clergy person in the United Church of Christ. My passions include spirituality, politics, and sports (Go Houston teams, go!). I use my blog to start conversations rather than merely spout my perspectives and opinions. I hope you'll post a question, comment, or observation for me to respond - so we can get the conversation started!
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