When the Lights Go Out

Living with Ambiguity

I recently had the pleasure of being invited to speak at another Spiritual Center on a Wednesday night. The weather had been sultry all day and as I pulled into the center’s parking lot, dark clouds were beginning to form.

They had asked me to speak about ambiguity—about living with uncertainty and change. They recently had several leadership changes and I believe they wanted to know how their faith might be used to add a “solidness” to things in the midst of change. Or at least that’s what I planned for my 20-minute talk.

The clouds just kept getting darker!

As the musician for the evening warmed up and I took my place in the lovely auditorium, the echoes of thunder started coming through the walls of the building. Soon wind and a downpour of water joined the booming electrical storm.

And that’s when the lights went out.

We hastily decided to continue the service. Candles were lit in the dark sanctuary. The musician switched to an acoustic guitar. I made plans to speak off the podium, down amongst the seated people.

The dramatic setting was a great backdrop for my talk on ambiguity.

I shared these three key ideas about living with uncertainty:

  1. Change is Inevitable. It’s useless to try and keep things from changing. When we have a good thing going, we’d like to keep it forever. We’d like our friends to stay the same. We want to have relationships, jobs and homes that are good—and stay that way. But that’s not the nature of life. We have to be willing to allow (and even welcome) change into our lives. It is only through change that something new and better can come our way. Resistance is harmful and, as they say, futile.
  2. Our “Upsets” Last Ninety Seconds. Research among brain scientists have shown that a negative reaction (emotion) towards change happens without our control. When something negative happens we react in anger or frustration. This is natural. It is due to a release of various neurochemicals that trigger our “fight or flight” response. These chemicals flood our body for about a minute or two to help us get out of danger. Once you get past the ninety seconds—your reaction to change is a choice. Yes, believe it or not, you can continue to be pissed-off or anxious—but you can also choose to feel something else!
  3. We Can Participate in Change. Since change is inevitable, wouldn’t it be better if we participate in the changes that arise? Rather than grumbling, gossiping and fussing about the changing world—what if we accept and move with the change? We can give our input into the changes around us so that our voice is heard in a positive way. We can give up complaining and start collaborating!

How well do you cope with uncertainly? Do you resist change? What do you do when the lights go out?

We lit candles and did our best to have a great evening!