I'm one who wants to find the entire solution right away.
When a problem looms, I want to categorize it, figure it out, determine a strategy, and fix it. Sometimes this makes sense; other times, I can only accomplish this by sheer force of will. The results then aren't usually that great, and I wind up having to regroup or do it over.
Lately when things have gotten too complicated even for developing a concrete strategy, I've found myself wailing, "What do I do now?" And if I'm looking for a big answer that will solve the whole problem in one gulp, I'm invariably disappointed. But sometimes, if I calm myself and listen, I get one idea. One little beam of light that gives me just the next step.
I love this story from Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life": "Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.' "
One thing at a time. Just do that one thing, and trust that it's leading to the whole solution.
This summer I had to sort through a very knotty problem involving someone close to me. At one point, we had a major conflagration with disastrous results. That night, I went to bed with no answer in sight, and spent many sleepless hours in despair. I prayed for the big answer that would bring me peace, and got nothing. "What am I going to do?" I thought. "I can't go on like this!"
I had to get up in the morning for a 7 a.m. meeting. A few friends at the meeting who knew something of what I was going through offered words of encouragement. "Huh," I thought. "Maybe I can get through this. Maybe it's just about getting through today. One day at a time."
After the meeting I would have to face the person I'd fought with. On the drive home I prayed again. I knew that divine Spirit loved us both, and I could be guided to know what to do. Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, whose main work I read every day, wrote, "Step by step will those who trust Him find that 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble' " ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 444). I could trust God, divine Spirit, to give me the next step.
And then I got it.
I got just one idea, one single idea for that day. It was to call someone and ask for a particular favor. This friend was fine with the idea, even delighted to help. In effect, her agreeing to the favor gave me and the person I had a conflict with an entire weekend to relax.
When we saw each other after the weekend, we were able to start again on more amiable footing. That weekend was indeed the start of the entire situation turning around. What a gift.
So I'm learning the power of one small idea, as opposed to huge strategies and policies. One small idea can get you what you need right now, and that will lead to the revealing of the big picture. You can trust that Spirit has the strategy in place already.
Give us day by day
our daily bread.