“Oh, that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?
The Man of LaMancha, Don Quixote, has been popping into my thoughts a lot of late. I sometimes get the great comic/tragic novel and the musical mixed up–like what thought belongs to which. When I finally read Cervantes masterpiece a few years back I saw in me the gentle, deluded knight all too well. I’ve never really been very good at living in the rest of the world’s reality. I’ve always kind of been one to live out impossible dreams.
A few who know me well have remarked that I live in the past a lot. ‘Tis true. And when I was younger my favorite kind of fiction was Science Fiction–which is all about the future and unrealized possibilities. Those who remarked that I lived a lot in the past did not, I think, mean that as a compliment–but rather something I could improve on by living more in the present. However, when I was about age four or five I realized that there was a lot of pain in Time Present, and as I got older found Time Past and Time Future to be both much friendlier places.
In its essence, I think Don Quixote is about the nature of reality and the nature of belief–perhaps, faith, or trust even. What the knight sees is not what his faithful, very practical, very grounded squire Sancho sees. One critic said something to the effect that Cervantes never lets the reader rest. What one finds to be true in one chapter is turned on its head in the next. I kind of delight in that. It speaks to my reality (or unreality) of a world of magic and endless possibilities–a world in which I have very little control and in which I’m thus forced to accept with trust. Likewise, I find that God never lets me rest–that what I thought He was up to in my life a few years ago–is today, not so much.
And right off-hand can you think of any important biblical characters who had a quiet, uneventful life? Wasn’t God always pulling surprises–and many of them not so pleasant? Think of Moses with his speech impediment being asked by God to appear before Pharaoh to plead for his people’s freedom, or Jonah being asked to witness to his arch-enemies in Ninevah. Or the whole absurdity of Sarah and Abraham having a child at ages 90 and 100. Consider also the strange tale of Gideon with 32,000 warriors being told by God that was waaay too many–and thus ending up with 300 men selected because they lapped water like a dog, and with this small, strange force he surrounds the horde of Amalekites and puts them to route. All these strange requests are where trust comes in.
Over two decades ago I was introduced to a life-changing insight compliments of M. Scott Peck in People of the Lie. He defined evil as controlling others for our own selfish, often nefarious needs. Pretty much from that time on I was wary of any impulse I had to control others and exceedingly sensitive to those who tried to exert power and control in my life. Then a few years ago I came to accept the fact that I had very little control over my own life, and what control I though I had was mostly an illusion. I officially accepted my “powerlessness”–which, by the way, is the first step in any 12-step recovery program. This was very liberating. I came to realize that I had to accept life on God’s terms–and that meant trust. Brennan Manning says in Ruthless Trust that Jesus died for our trust, and that trust is the only gift we have to give back to Him.
Another truth that I’ve come to accept of late is that my reach will always exceed my grasp. And I think that’s the way God wants it. He wants us to dream impossible dreams. He beckons us to follow Him down a road named Trust.