Saturday, January 28, 2012
On Planning, Knowing, and...Control
I used to say things like this all the time: "I just need to know, because I'm a planner."
When we got to China, it didn't take long to realize that China isn't about planning ahead. There was nothing that culture shocked us quite like the total inability to schedule life in advance. "So, there's a national holiday, uh...next week. Does anyone know what day or days we won't have class? Anyone?" The vast amount of unknowns and unexpected changes that we experienced in our first years in China simply staggered us.
And so we would gripe and groan and vent and moan each time another plan would change. And we would turn to the Chinese and expect them to, you know, be just like us, right onboard our bandwagon of outrage. Only they weren't. And that was mindboggling. How can this NOT bother you? And they would never say it to us with words, but you could see it in their eyes, "WHY does this bother you?"
Over time we began to watch and learn that in general the Chinese don't fret about what they can't control. And they accept that unexpected change is (gasp) a part of life, so just...expect it. This mindset, to a small degree, began to rub off on us, and it was quite astounding the freedom we experienced because of it. All that griping and groaning we like to do? Turns out, it's a big waste of energy! Who knew?
Here's what I learned about myself: I like control. And most of my efforts to plan and to worry and to know stuff, boil down to my attempt to control. Last I checked, that's not...good. Living in China encouraged me to stop grasping at straws of control and to instead live life with open palms, ready and willing to accept life as it comes with all its beauty and mess.
Then I came back to America. And those dangerous things called expectations creeped back in. This is America where people plan ahead, and things happen on schedule, and people communicate clearly and there are no last minute changes. Right?? Ha! But somehow, we Americans believe this lie! We feel it's our right for life to be this way and then feel violated when it's not.
Remember how I'm trying to practice eucharisteo? Well, a lot of days I'm royally failing. There haven't been so many of those blissfully content days of that first week. But here's what I'm learning. If I do give thanks for the daily beauties all around AND for the hard, the unexpected, the violating, it gives me that open palm kind of life. If I stop trying to control out all of the bad or even the possible bad, those very things can become the good. That thing about God working all things for the good, it's actually true...if we let him.