Red Herrings

This past weekend I had the opportunity to try an escape room. It's a group activity in which the goal is to "escape the room" by solving a puzzle using a series of clues in a set amount of time. It was a blast! 

The group I was with was my family which made it all the more fun. The first escape room had a time limit of 20 minutes. We felt pretty good when we completed it in 8 minutes and 3 seconds! Onto the harder one. A time limit of 30 minutes.

What's interesting about being in an "escape room" is that it draws out your temperament and how you handle the stress of success or failure right in front of you.

So we failed the second escape room. We couldn't solve the puzzle in the allotted time. What was wonderful though is that the guide explained to us the clue we missed. He showed us how we were supposed to get the code for the combination lock from the geography map. He also shared how well we started off when we worked together on the clues, but then we got divided. He said it was in our division that he knew he had us. He mentioned how we got caught up in the red herrings. That particularly spoke to me because I was convinced that these mini kid blocks in the room were part of a clue, and I must have spent a third of the time trying to make sense of them. 

I must say this failure gave us some good material in debriefing! 

I think each of us has red herrings in our lives. We have things that we think are very important and part of God's plan for us, but they're not. We try so hard to make them fit into our lives. We say, "they wouldn't be there if they weren't important, right?" but in focusing on them we lose sight of what God has already revealed. We forget that God has revealed so much specifically for each one of us. We think that his plan is not going fast enough. Or we think what he revealed was too simple or too little and we want to focus on something bigger. We skip over his "clues" (inspirations, nudges and resolutions) and chase the red herrings.

We can bring this to prayer. We can ask God, are there red herrings in my life? Am I focused on something that doesn't actually matter? Am I distracted from the path you have set for me? Am I divided within myself? 

Let us take a step back and look at the concrete clues God has given us. He has spoken to you in your prayer, in the depths of your heart, in Scripture and through others. Recall what resolutions you have made and stick to them.

The red herrings are appealing because they're on the scene, but there's nothing like knowing you're on the right path. 

Waiting

What are we waiting for?

It seems many of us are in a period of waiting. Waiting for an answer–an indication of God's specific plan for us. Interestingly though, this waiting for us is difficult. So what do we do? We attach it to something specific and tangible in our lives, whether waiting for lab results, a house to sell, a house to buy, a spouse, placement results, a job offer, a full recovery, a phone call, an invitation, you name it. We get caught thinking that once this specific thing happens in time and space, we'll have an answer. We'll know what we're meant to do and what direction our life is going in and THEN be able to live the life God is calling us to.

In this waiting we can get frustrated and say, "God, just show us already!" We can even start to slip into lukewarmness, "Well if I'm going to be moving, why bother giving the basement a good clean?"

So two questions arise in this waiting period:
1. What's the point of it?
2. What are we supposed to do in it?

First, the point of this waiting period is actually conditioning us for how we're meant to live. It will happen that when the very thing you're waiting for comes to pass, and there will be something new to wait for. The waiting frustrates us because we want to "get it over" so we can finally grasp that "sweet spot" - when we won't be waiting for anything and everything will be settled. But that won't happen on earth. That's called Heaven. So the point of this waiting period right now is God's personal invitation for you to really learn that we can only live in the present and God is with us in it.

Second, since we're going to be waiting and feeling that lack of settling for the rest of our lives it helps to remember that God is outside of space and time. He knows if you'll get that job or when your house will sell. He knows when your future spouse will come into your life or to what school your child will be accepted. God knows. So what we're meant to do in this waiting period is trust him and surrender to him.

Below I've included the The Litany of Trust by the Sisters of Life. As one line beautifully says, "That Your plan is better than anything else, Jesus, I trust in you." It has been so helpful in transforming the waiting into something sweet.

Let us accept God's invitation and respond to his love. Let us let go of waiting and live in the moment. Let us receive the fire of the Holy Spirit and be on fire.

Litany of Trust
by The Sisters of Life 

From the belief that I have to earn Your love, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable...
From the false security that I have what it takes...
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute...
From all suspicion of Your words and promises...
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You...
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will...
From anxiety about the future...
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past..
From restless self-seeking in the present moment...
From disbelief in Your love and presence...
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have...
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth...
From the fear of what love demands...
From discouragement...

That You are continually holding me sustaining me, loving me, Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me...
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You...
That you are with me in my suffering...
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next...
That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church...
That Your plan is better than anything else...
That You always hear me and in Your goodness always respond to me...
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others...
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked...
That my life is a gift...
That You will teach me to trust You...
That You are my Lord and my God...
That I am Your beloved one...