I am uncomfortable with “words for the year.” Actually, I despise them. This year I struggled with concepts Jesus is teaching me, trying to fit them into the “here’s my word for the year” box. I even adopted other writers’ and prophets’ words. It didn’t work. Page after page of discarded blog posts dropped into the recycle bin.
Until now. I read an article, on Facebook of course, linked by a Catholic friend, and one word grabbed my attention. “Givens.” The author explained, givens are those things we cannot change which define our lives, whether we like them or not; a “traumatic thought” for our culture which holds “personal autonomy as the highest good.”
Givens: think gender, job limitations, pregnancy, illness, financial limits… things which limit and restrict and define. Often, we don’t like them and we resist their limits to our freedom. However, if personal autonomy and freedom to choose are the highest values, standards and norms fly out the window.
This lack of respect for (or even recognition of) givens produces irresponsible behaviors with long-range consequences: our new reality sports gender fluidity, infinite debt, assumptions about women’s choices and abortion, and a host of other (horrific?) societal shifts.
However, I sense an upside to our rebellion against boundaries: this land of “defy givens,” of infinite possibility and our “I can do or be anything” approach is what took us to the moon, gave us medical breakthroughs that save lives daily, and created a nation of out-of-the-box thinkers, doers, and innovators. We are, as a people, dreamers and visionaries. “Why not?” is our theme song, and a good one at that.
What’s more, our “why not” is honorable, good, and Biblical. After all, the scriptures are exceedingly clear that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27, Luke 18:27). Admittedly, the point is out of context, but the concept remains: Jesus did the impossible and encouraged His disciples to do the same, expecting God to work through them in miracles and signs and wonders.
Jesus routinely broke the rules and invaded the earth with the Kingdom of God. So what do I do with those boundary lines that say “accept limits, circumstances, roles, and rules – they are what they are?”
I shiver as I realize suddenly that “givens” are the very concept I’ve fought against my whole life. I don’t want to be restricted by what is. I want to be free to exceed limits and push boundaries; to do the impossible and make new things happen. That ability to push into the new and improbable keeps me young, allows me to do the un-doable, surprises those around me, and gives me hope in all things new.
However, it’s the very “givens” that make miracles…well,…miraculous. If anything goes, all the time, and I have infinite choices before me, then I am the ruler of my universe and have control over my own destiny. If there are no “givens,” all things are possible at any given moment and the miraculous is no longer miraculous.
The fact is, Jesus recognized boundaries and limits. He knew who He was, what He had been given to do, and where to lay down His authority to submit to the Father. And He knew when His Father was calling Him to break the rules.
It’s a struggle. When do I pray for healing and when do I submit to the inevitability of sickness and death in this world? When do I jump out in faith and when do I acquiesce in quietness? I don’t want to lose my creative anything-is-possible-with-God edge; neither do I want to miss the peace of resting in what “is” and waiting for the redemption of God.
Perhaps His is the miraculous part and mine is the quietness and trust part. That’s a new thought.
Perhaps “givens” is my word for the year. It’s certainly a concept to work on.
What about you? Are “givens” a challenge or a limit to your worldview? Are they things to overcome, or do they provide a welcome place of rest and security?