I’ve always liked the adage that we should pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on us. This saying can be modified in a few ways. First, if the concept of God is uncomfortable, the ideas of fate, luck or the Universe work too. Secondly, the whole thing works if we understand it entirely in the mundane realm—where we can rely on others—not the Divine—while simultaneously putting forth our best effort.
I believe that God helps those who help themselves and that the harder I work, the luckier I get. I have never been one to stand around hoping or expecting that what I want will magically fall in my lap. In my experience, that doesn’t usually happen, although serendipity is a beautiful angel who occasionally lands on my shoulder and offers her bounty. But I don’t think we can count on that. On the other hand, it’s also important to make sure we are exploiting opportunities when they present themselves. Sometimes they are easy to miss if we aren’t paying attention, as I’ve written about before here. Sometimes the bush is seriously on fire.
I love the story about the guy trapped on a rooftop during a flood. A raft, a boat and a helicopter come by and offer assistance, which he refuses, saying the Lord will save him. When he dies and stands before the Lord, the man asks God why he wasn’t saved and God replies, “I sent a raft, a boat and a chopper, why didn’t you use them?” Which adds another level of complexity to my rumination about what is for me to do, when to accept help, and when to surrender altogether. So confusing.
I guess if it’s impossible to find the line, we just need to keep dancing, stepping lightly all around, hoping we don’t step on too many cracks. I’d hate to break my mother’s back, after all. I’ll go with the idea that everything depends on me and act as if it does. But I’ll also put in my time on my knees and continue to ask the Divine for help. I’ll take assistance anywhere I can get it.
So whether it’s yours, mine or ours to do, and whether the Universe will deign to intervene in a positive way (or possibly to our detriment), I’ve always got to do my bit like everything depends on it. If I’m really not sure if it’s mine to do, or best left for others to carry the water, a little discernment is in order. I think there are basically two types of people in these situations: those who tend to walk on by and those who tend to make like Atlas, with the responsibility for everything resting on their shoulders. I’m in the Atlas category, and if I’m not careful, I can be my own worst enemy. I have to think twice before I decide something is mine to do, because my tendency is to get my exercise jumping to conclusions that it’s always all up to me. For others, the opposite may be true, and for those folks, the right answer might be to say yes more often than they are inclined to do.
In any case, it’s important not to assume, and to do our due diligence concerning where our obligations—those we choose and those we have thrust upon us—reside. Yours, mine, ours, God’s? These are the questions of a well-lived life. My thanks to Thea Harrison for helping me to sort out some of the answers, or at least to make sure I continue to ask the questions.