A Big Disclaimer

Friday, September 6, 2013 — Week of Proper 17, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 982)

Psalms 31 (morning) // 35 (evening)

1 Kings 11:26-43

James 4:13-5:6

Mark 15:22-32

Imagine prefacing every statement you make about the future with the words, “If the Lord wishes.” Today’s reading from the letter of James encourages us to add that disclaimer to all of our plans. James critiques those who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” He asks, what human being can possibly speak about tomorrow, or even about later today, with any confidence?

Instead of announcing our plans, we should first say, “If the Lord wishes”: “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” James says that our life is simply “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Introducing our declarations about the future with the words “If the Lord wishes” helps to give us that sense of our life as a mist that could dissipate at any moment.

It might sounds awkward to introduce all of our plans like this. For example: “If the Lord wishes, I’ll go out of town for the weekend.” Or, “If the Lord wishes, I’ll have a burrito for lunch.” Perhaps we can just add a mental caveat or contingency clause to every plan or prediction that we share with others. We can try saying to ourselves silently, “If the Lord wishes.”

A practice like this might give us the awareness that James tries to instill in us—that our life is simply a mist. Who knows what will happen next? We live not by our own willpower or arrogance, but through each new tomorrow that unfolds suddenly and stunningly as a gift a from God.

Personally, I learned to qualify statements about my future whenever I spoke about being ordained or about having a family. If I’d learned anything from friends’ journeys through ordination, fertility, or adoption, it was that you can’t speak about the outcomes with any security or confidence. I didn’t often use the disclaimer, “If the Lord wishes,” but I did make good use of the word “If”!

Today, we can try to take James’ advice and speak about the future with a little less certainty. Who knows what detours, obstacles, or dead ends will confront us in the coming hours and days. Our life is a mist, but it is here today, thanks be to God.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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