Things did not turn out as I had planned. Circumstances did not unfold as I had determined they should.

I tried to make it work, but my efforts were frustrated. I was powerless to bring about the outcome I hoped for. Nothing I tried changed the irresistible forces that seemed bent in a direction that was not of my choosing.

I could not change the realities that did not conform to my wishes.

It is tempting to sulk. But sulking only pollutes the environment with the poison of discontent. When my life is driven by like and dislikes, I inevitably seep the toxic poison of dissatisfaction. Sulking, and its close cousin resentment are small wizened consolation prizes in the face of disappointment.

I could redouble my efforts to get it right. I could reassert my determination to figure out how to make life work so that next time the world will fulfill my needs, wants, desires, and demands. But, no matter how hard I try, there will always be some small corner of life that does not conform perfectly to how I decided it should be. My determination to make life turn out as I wish will always be on a collision course with reality.

There must be a third way through this morass of disappointment. There must be a path that leads to an open door in the wall of annoyance and irritation behind which I so easily become stuck.

Jesus pointed the way past regret when he said to his disciples that they should,

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

This is one of the only places where Jesus describes himself. He uses two words. He is, by his own testimony “gentle and humble”. Gentleness and humility are the keys that open the door to contentment and peace rather than staying locked in the small cramped room of bitterness and resentment.

To “learn from” Jesus, is to become like him. To “take his yoke upon me” is to align myself with the pattern of his life and to walk in his Spirit of gentleness and humility.

When I am “gentle” I stop pushing against the circumstances of life. I see the realities of my situation for what they are. I do what I am able to do to move forward with openness and freedom. But, to be “humble”, is to accept that there are limitations to my power.

Humility is neither fatalism nor defeat. Humility is realism. Even Jesus accepted the limitations of human form when he lived in this world –

not my will but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)

Humility is the willingness to hold the realities of life as they are and engage with life on its own terms rather than assuming I should be the one who dictates the outcomes of my actions and choices.

There is a place of rest but it is not found by demanding life satisfy my wishes. This place of soul rest lies along the path of honesty and surrender. I am not the “captain of my fate,” (William Ernest Henley) any more than “I am monarch of all I survey” (William Cowper). But I am free, no matter the realities of my life, to align myself with love.

I can always open to this moment. And, in this moment no matter how dark, it is always possible to perceive tiny glimpses of beauty and mystery, even when I don’t get my way.