The Muddle of the Future with the Present

Each of us has our own way of pulling ourself through hard times.

One of my main methods used to be: “There is an end to this. Things will be better.” This doesn’t really work now that I’ve been sick for over a decade and facing an illness that may kill me sooner than later.

Sometimes when I’m in bed, and the pain is bad, I’ll think about “How do I keep going?” Over the past ten years my answer has been to throw a hook into the future and use that as my lifeline.

For example, I find something that intensely interests me and then commit to it. My latest lifeline has been teaching a seminar on leadership this fall. I deeply believe that the way we do leadership in today’s world is really messed up. Leadership seems to be more about power and control than understanding and help. But many of the models I’ve seen, even of servant leadership, where the leader is supposed to be the servant, don’t really put understanding as primary. [You can’t truly lead people if you don’t understand them first.]

Lately I’ve started to see my energy wane, my pain increase substantially, and my future horizons seem much less sure. My old way of pulling myself through hard times, with an anchor into the future, isn’t working as well anymore.

This is not a crisis of faith. My faith in God is stronger than ever.

I am facing a crisis of not knowing. Not knowing how much longer my body can hold on. Not knowing what the true diagnosis of my ailment is, not knowing if I’m going to make it to the end of the year or the end of the decade. Not knowing if my next trip to the doctor’s will help me or hurt me.

This crisis of not knowing is not a terrible thing, but it is a very human thing.

Would knowing that I only have a few months to live be any easier? No. It would just be a different type of crisis. The one I am facing now still needs a lifeline to pull me through, it just needs a different one.

As I ponder this issue, I feel joy.

Figuring out how to pull myself through this moment and these times is a living problem. That is, it’s the recurrent issue all of us face in life. It’s just that now it’s presenting a different set of challenges.

For me this crisis boils down to two questions:

  1. How do I find joy?
  2. How do I grow ever closer to God?

For me, working on these two questions, in and of itself, brings me joy. At heart I’m a scientist and a Rabbi. As a scientist it is the search for answers, not the answers themselves that is the work. As a Rabbi, the work is to help others along their pass towards God. As a Rabbi, this blog is part of my work.