My friend Pat just sent me a set of her prayer flags. Bright symbols of faith and aspiration are tossed by the four winds in my garden. Each morning the bright colors, symbols and messages catch my attention. They are beautiful and it is easy to not notice the wind itself.
At the foundation where I work, I often go next door to Sr. Mary Margaret’s office to debrief after a meeting or a phone call. She possesses a tart realism leavened with affection and wisdom; she is an excellent colleague and mentor. Her German practicality is the ideal counterpoint to my Irish intuition.
There are times when I’ll tell her about a particularly frustrating meeting. Or I may have encountered what appears to be an unjust situation that hurts those who are powerless. Perhaps it is a project that is going awry, a set of policies that actually mitigate against accomplishing the goal.
When I voice my aggravation and annoyance, Mary Margaret’s response is not to commiserate, but to say, “What is God telling you?”
My first thought is usually, ‘I don’t really care what God is telling me. What I care about is how bad or wrong this is and how frustrated I am.’
But later I return to Mary Margaret’s question: What is God telling me using this situation?
And that question leads to others.
What is the underlying message that I am missing when I focus on situation itself rather than on what we are working toward?
How can I stay attuned to what actually needs to be accomplished rather than get mired in negativity?
What is the other perspective that is present and what is the good to be found in that perspective?
Where can we turn to move past the obstacle and build consensus around a solution?
How do I emphasize the inherent value of human relationships rather than get bogged down in being political?
I take time to feel the wind. Because while it is important to see the prayer flags, it is the wind that makes them flutter and dance.