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On Faith: God is not limited by our expectations

September 02, 2011|By Mark S. Miller

The British during imperial times built golf courses in India, only to encounter an unexpected problem: monkeys delighted in joining the game by picking up golf balls and dropping them in other places, sometimes nowhere near where the shot had landed or the intended hole.

Fences were useless in keeping monkeys off the course. Following the Darwinian principle of adapt or perish, the golfers finally accepted reality and changed the rules of the game. Should a monkey move one's golf ball, one had to play it from the spot where the monkey dropped it.

Given that monkeys were indifferent to whether they improved the golfer's lie by their mischief or not, roughly as many strokes were gained as lost through this expedient. The ball could be found in the rough after a shot drove it to the fairway; it could end up two feet from the cup when it had been hit into a sand trap.

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Playing the ball where the monkey dropped it was sometimes fortunate and sometimes disastrous, but the British could think of no other way to deal with this unpredictable reality.

Life is comparable to the impact of those monkeys. Things are not as we drive them and are not found where we expect them to be.

Schopenhauer wrote: "In our youth we sit before the life that lies ahead like children sitting before the curtain in a theater, in happy anticipation of whatever is going to appear. Luckily we do not know what really will appear."

Our lives proceed customarily, when out of the blue we are tried and tested. It may be the responsibility of tending to a newly afflicted loved one, adapting to a monetary loss, facing a death. Change that we did not envision plays havoc with sudden impact. The best we can do is to play the ball where life has dropped it.

Likewise, we can be in the depths when suddenly we receive a career promotion, are told our health is improving, benefit from a financial windfall, or meet that special someone when we thought there was no prospect. We are, at these times, grateful that the ball was taken from the rough and placed on the green.

"If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."

Despite our most strenuous efforts, God will not be limited by our expectations. It is an axiom of military engagement that "no plan of operation survives the first collision with the enemy."

Not even the best of strategies are a match for circumstances. Life is chaotic; the only thing to be expected is the unexpected.

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