This quote appeared in a newsletter I received this morning, and it occurred to me that I understood it differently than I did the last time I heard it, which was years ago. The question of our agency--how much do I do, and how much does God do?--has always been a struggle for me. As an independent, self-employed writer, I tend to conceptualize, plan, and produce something on my own. I work well that way, when it comes to books and articles and web content. But for the larger, life-impacting things, for organic life-blossoming possibilities, for love and healing and grace and unfolding, the lines of agency seem much fuzzier to me.
When I first heard "Pray to God and row to shore" years ago, it meant to me that the action was really all up to me. God wanted things to turn out well for me, of course, and was there for me to talk to (and listen to) when I needed the support and encouragement. But when push came to shove, it all depended on my choices and actions. So I continued to live that way, trying real hard, working real hard, taking everything pretty seriously with all the earnestness a stoic work ethic requires.
But today I heard this phrase differently. I'm glad to say there must be a lot more grace within and around me. It's certainly present in my thinking. Today "Pray to God and row to shore" means simply that my actions need to blossom naturally from my beliefs. They need to be in alignment with the beliefs so the beliefs can manifest in my life. When I believe God is good, that God is caring for me, that God is at work in my situation, I can act with gentleness, confidence, peace, patience. When I say I believe God is good, caring for me, and at work in my situation and then feel burdened and overwhelmed and work myself half to death trying to solve something, my actions are not in line with my beliefs. It's not all up to me. That's the opposite of my inner beliefs.
That's worth at least one hallelujah. Thank God for growth in grace and understanding! May your own discoveries today help you relax into these Loving Arms that uphold us all.