Chinese Proverb: Good Luck Bad Luck?
There is a story of a farmer who used an old horse to till his fields. One day, the horse escaped into the hills and when the farmer's neighbors sympathized with the old man over his bad luck,the farmer replied, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"
A week later, the horse returned with a herd of horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"
Then, when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was,"Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"
Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck or bad luck? Who knows?
Spend some time in prayer this week asking God to show you where in the past you’ve quickly jumped to judgement to name something as good or bad only to be shown later, after waiting and perspective, that it was in fact the opposite.
What’s the thing right now in your life that you are making judgements about without knowing the eventual outcome? Can you ask God to take this burden from you knowing that you don’t know what is in store for the future?
It's not only important to have perspective about the painful things in our lives, but also sometimes even the joyful things. By not attaching to the fleeting feelings of the moment, we are free to follow the path that God is leading us into the future.
Many of us are trying to get outside each day and take a walk. This week’s prayer challenge is to simply look for one beautiful thing each day as you walk or as you go about your life. Make this a daily practice. God has created our brains to honor this practice of gratitude. Neuroscience tells us that when we consistently practice gratitude, our brains start to scan our environment for things to be grateful for. It’s like a computer program constantly running in the background.
Another reason we need to make Gratitude an active, intentional and CONSISTENT practice is because our brains are evolutionarily wired for Negativity Bias. (When your day is filled with great things but the only thing you focus on is the one negative! That's negativity bias.) But at the intersection of Science and Spirit is our brain's own plasticity and we can rewire this negativity bias by feeding the flowers instead of the weeds. So take this challenge a step further and either write down your “one beautiful thing” or share it with a friend or family member each day. You could even try this as a daily text chain with your group of friends! This practice helps to shift our thinking from a place of scarcity (what we don’t have) to abundance (what we do have).
Worrying about the future or ruminating on the past creates anxiety, and yet when we sit down to meditate or pray, often that’s where our minds go. But we can actually practice being patient. And the author of Romans shows us one way to do this:
“But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us through wordless groans. And God, who searches our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans 8:25-27)
None of us have gone through this before. That’s what makes this time so unique. It’s not personal, it's communal not-knowing. So as Romans says, “we do not know what to pray for” BUT the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. All we have to do is show up in our weakness. So for the challenge this week, just simply show up to the present moment with the Holy Spirit. There need not be any words, instead allow for “wordless groans.” You can think of these “wordless groans” as the moment we notice we’re drawn into worrying about the future; we can gently return to focus on the Holy Spirit and the present moment. You may want to choose a word to anchor you to this presence - perhaps “Love” or “Peace” or whatever word you wish.
As a practice of patience, try doing this for five minutes, and then the next day try for six minutes. Slowly increase your time in prayer and you will find that your capacity to be patient will increase with your capacity to sit in this patient waiting.