Columns, Grace Notes

The illusion of control

Life presents each of us with a number of experiences that reinforce the fact that we, ultimately, are not in charge. Some of my most memorable “teachable moments” occurred during my divorce, my recovery from a brain hemorrhage, and my daughter’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. The point at which I knew I had handed over each outcome totally to God was always identifiable by a deep and freeing sense of peace that descended on me — immediately after I’d succumbed to mind-numbing despair.

The “great reversal” is sometimes revealed in blessings that arise out of events that seem to be happening in the wrong order. When my unmarried daughter became pregnant eight years ago, I received the news with a mix of emotions that I hadn’t anticipated I would feel upon learning that my first grandchild was expected. Yet, when my grandson was born, nothing mattered except my feelings of love for him. My daughter, my grandson, and my grandson’s father have lived in California since deciding to move there from Minnesota when my grandson was 20 months old. And, this summer, they had a wedding.

Jean Johansson

The “great reversal” is sometimes revealed in blessings that arise out of events that seem to be happening in the wrong order.

The wedding and reception took place in southern California, on the outdoor patio of a cliffside restaurant that overlooked a Pacific coast harbor. Dozens of sailboats were gliding over the water in the distance, while 65 family members and friends, from Minnesota and California, witnessed the exchanging of vows. The bride and groom not only made a commitment to each other, but to their son, who chose to refer to the occasion as “our” wedding.

The patio was transformed after the wedding ceremony into a dining area, with a dance floor at one end. My daughter had designated each guest’s table assignment. I shared a table at the reception with my former husband and the woman he is now with, my son and his girlfriend, my grandson, and my former husband’s son and daughter from his first marriage. For me, this wedding handed me many reasons for gratitude, and among them was gratitude for the healing nature of time, the opportunity to be with my long-ago and right-now family in a new way, and to realize that any lingering negative emotional baggage had been replaced with fresh, positive feelings. We were united in the happiness of the day.

It takes a village of people to celbrate a wedding

Darkness fell as the reception progressed toward its conclusion. A half moon smiled down on us from a sky filled with stars, lights twinkled on boats in the harbor, and white paper lanterns and miniature white lights illuminated the patio as we danced. We gave ourselves over to a conga line that meandered around the patio, and we danced with abandon to the song “YMCA,” forming the letters in the air with our arms. The night was enchanted, full of joy, the kind you always remember.

God was, is, and always will be in charge, and on that night I could see the wisdom of embracing that fact. That was all I needed to know to feel wrapped in peace.

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