A Reflection on Intentional Living

My Defining… 

Not so much calculations, but revelations – conscientious estimations regarding outcomes. Before endings become, the intentional ones ascertain the losses and gains awaiting the conclusion of any chosen path. The fallout from wrath; the break of too many mistakes; the accumulated scars which brand their mark after one too many broken hearts; the void when give succumbs to take; the bite in the air when the room is full, but no one’s really there… are all reasons for each of us to be subconsciously awake and moving, thinking, speaking, acting and being intentionally. Always sharpening the blade…

I don’t believe in chance. I believe we are each designed by the Creator for a purpose. And so, the universe engages us constantly toward that end. Whether and how we choose to engage with the universe is the only questionable variable. Life can just happen to us, and we absorb, defend and protect; or run, hide and curse; or maybe react, fight and regret… or perhaps find ourselves utilizing all of these responses in some form or fashion along our way. However, when we enact authority in our existence by premeditating good outcomes, thoughtfully restraining, lovingly interacting, and considerably processing how the worlds of those around us are impacted by our choices, in addition to with what we fuel our own existence and its ultimate meaning as our personal piece in eternity’s puzzle; we are enforcing a phenomena intuitive in nature… one that wealth, fame and notoriety cannot conjure. Although, knowledge and attractiveness often do empower greater influence, enabling one to more effectively walk out whatever lies at the base of one’s heart and soul – one’s truest motivation for breathing.   

I have a proclivity for intentional living for various reasons. One being, I do not react well to the unexpected outcome; and, I have no desire to contribute to any untoward end. When life constantly throws you for a loop and your point of reference is unstable, bitterness and skepticism begin to take hold and reshape the posture of your heart. However, cynicism is a faulty shield, as the spirit is genuine and knows what the flesh may not willingly reveal. We all suffer blows in this lifelong sentence and scramble to secure ourselves in our own ways. While walls are constructed to keep harmful inquisitions at bay, mainly they simply keep us locked within, smothering in our own reason, fear and anxiety. Such seclusion takes courage for a species created to love one another. Yes, courage, because as love-based creatures, the decision to be disingenuous, reactionary, solitary and unwaveringly formidable as an island of one is against the very grains of our spiritual sculpture. This lends to my second, more evolved reason for intentional living… it is what the aware spirit is called to do. One may remain faultless if unaware, but there is no peace for those who know better and choose to submit to a haphazard life, steering recklessly, if at all, toward no defined end, no greater good, and no enlightened cause. I cannot in good conscience carry that burden, and so, I choose the other.   

The intentional life is indeed burdensome. It can be quite uncomfortable, quite overbearing, quite offensive and most deeply humbling; and yet, it is the most bountiful and altruistic path. This complex journey is full of oxymora. Inconsistent variables meet the constant spirit and we find ourselves compelled to acquiesce or flee; compromise or abandon; succumb or break; love or feel less hate. In sum, we either subject our power to the world by letting conditions and circumstances dictate the stability of our being or we subject the world to our personal God-given power by infusing our intentional energy into every effort we commence, experience, and conclude. 

Half the Battle… 

Unleashed from before 
Spirit readied for war 
Subjected to earth’s dominion 
Influenced by man’s opinion 
Wearing its heart of armor 
The soldier and the farmer 

Credit: Paul Woodward 2010
Credit: Paul Woodward 2010

In this lifelong war, we each play a part in attaining fulfillment and influencing the fulfillment of others. As the champion, the victim or the passive observer; we each make choices based on our strengths and weaknesses, conditions and circumstances, reach and immobility, minds and hearts, bodies and spirits. And as we begin to measure our grounding and those things which have the power to shift it, we realize that intention is only half the battle. One can mean well without having the assets to walk out good intentions. We must know ourselves, what we believe in, what we believe our purposes to be, and have some type of reference for the opposition that we will be met with on our journeys. This is the launching point for self-direction; self-direction, as opposed to being directed by the world. No matter how we arrive to this battlefield, we will be tested, prodded and beaten… some beyond recognition. Without a solid foundation, with a weakened spirit, we are unable to rebound and focus; and the world will prey on us, leaving us incapable of walking out our inherent designs. 

In our core, we all desire peace, happiness, companionship and satisfaction, but not everyone can utilize or even understand the means for achieving these goals from a pure point of origin. Temporary gratification, living in the moment, sacrificing oneness for systematic symmetry, sacrificing sanity for survival, sacrificing thoughtfulness for self-preservation… these are all challenges to our ability to evolve the posture of intentionality into the practice of sowing and harvesting. There has to be a realization beyond the innate will of the heart. There has to be an application of our heads, hands, feet… our entire being in order to achieve anything close to true fulfillment in the purposeful life. We must hold the seeds in our hands and actively plant them; as we sure up our armor to stay the course. We must be farmers and soldiers to have any hope in finishing victorious. 

This is not the torch I’ve always carried. While my life before my now had always been somewhat off-putting, I didn’t understand why. I simply tried harder, submitted lower, cried longer, prayed deeper and fell farther; wrestling with the demons I didn’t know I had; holding on to destruction I didn’t know I granted; denying all of the purpose I didn’t know I carried. Thus, my journey began… 

Dimly Lit… 

Yesterday danced around me like a crisp winter’s night. 
The darkness was deep, the stars were dim, 
and the warmest of blankets could not ease the chill in my bones. 
Still, I peered so intensely at every glimmer, every flicker 
of brightness against the backdrop of existing 
and tried to glean something bigger than life 
from the burn left behind my eyes. 
But I could not see at all. 
I chased the lights blindly, until the moon grayed… 
and the stars became ash… 
and all the spark of being left me. 
Having wandered too far for too long, 
I fell limp upon the universe and surrendered 
all I had ever hoped and longed for 
into the black hole it had fashioned for me. 
Diffused and disengaged, I closed my eyes 
to mourn my soul and put its journey to rest. 

Surrender is a humbling phenomenon. At its depth, you expect nothing good to come of it. After all, you are giving up, submitting, acknowledging your utter failure at self-sustaining survival. At its height, you expect nothing worse to emerge from it than that very moment which caused you to discard the last sliver of hope that once whispered to you. The consummate paradox, surrender overwhelms you with the intense release of everything you have ever felt into a wounded numbness of letting go. It is the wake and the burial in one, and demands to be grieved. “I can’t, I won’t, and it hurts too much to care” make for a sufficient mantra to protect one’s shredded remains through the process.   

For me, surrender led to something divine occurring. I was drawn out of my perspective of searching to realize my purpose in becoming. As I began to unfold the complex tapestry which cocooned me in darkness, I started to see that I was the light I so desperately reached for in the world. My soul wasn’t destined to be extinguished, but reborn. My light wasn’t meant to be acquired, but revealed. And I urgently needed to understand that, while there are many forms of illumination, not all light shines in the same way or for the same reasons. I wanted to be more than a graying moon or diminishing star. My flame was exceptionally molded, and should be used to draw into its warmth the chilled bones of others, running through winter’s darkness, chasing falling stars.   

I had fallen broken and shattered, a victim of my own inability to see, and God reached in to convince me of to whom I belong. My existence became dimly lit and I began to pursue my own light, an energy which took me completely out of myself, so that I could be redeemed, rediscovered, restored and released. And I soon realized that I can, and I will, and it hurts too much not to care. I was reborn. I would make it count. 

Dancing in the Fire…

As the flames rose up, 
she watched her coals char into oblivion. 
Her fiery fortress melted away the useless layers 
until the burn revealed the jewel, and there within her heart
glistened the crown of her refinement.

I believe an exceptional life is marked by a challenged mind, tested will, and labored heart. By choosing to emerge from a defeated spirit, with these elements intact, I had no reasonable explanation for living anything less than an intentional existence. A life with purpose should be lived purposefully, even if the meaning is still elusive. It is that vague sense of knowing which called me to submerse into the fire of living with abandon in faith. This statement says so much about the commitment I’ve made to live intentionally, and it proves that anyone can.   

I am an introvert. I am a fixer. I am a perfectionist. I am a loner. My greatest fear is a broken heart. My greatest difficulty is to truly trust another. My greatest peeves are to be unprepared, unknowing, and unworthy. Well, the irony here is that my definition of intentional living goes against every fiber of my learned being. Intentional living is about reaching out; touching others; accepting brokenness; allowing disappointment; sharing of self – deeply; investing one’s heart entirely; trusting a higher hand in my encounters; and, most certainly, engaging a faith-based life with limited preparation, little knowing, and a posture of unworthiness. As such, to be the person I believe I am designed to be, I have to abandon everything comfortable to me in order to run into the center of all that threatens to burn me, and do so with a peace of spirit which relies on refinement over demise. I have to dance in the fire, be the fire, and spread its flames to ignite others.

Holding to the Flame… 

Had I thought about it with my head, 
I’d have likely put the thought to bed; 
but, lo, it’s set within this heart, 
emerging labor into life’s art. 
Thus, though the ash will leave its stains, 
I’ll cling eternal to the flame. 

By no means does such passion and faith shield me from the other elements. I have been smothered with tainted soils, doused with unforgiving floods, smote with overpowering brass, and incited by false airs. Being committed to affecting takes its toll. And since intentional living comes from a hopeful place, a center focused on producing the best outcomes, influencing positive energies and believing in the power of nurturing wounded spirits; it can create a veil of overzealous naivety. I’ve discovered that people tend to react to me with two extremes; they either view me as “too good” to interact with from a place of truly genuine expression, hiding who they really are based on their assumptions regarding who I am; or they view me as susceptible to manipulation, providing an opportunity to be taken advantage of based on my determination to identify the greater value in those I encounter. Not too long ago, these labels bothered me and I could feel myself walling up… taking a protective stance against the lens of the world. But I’ve realized that the greatest misnomer is making oneself accountable for the misperceptions of others, if they simply choose to see what they want to see. This is undoubtedly where intention gets a little tricky. While I can control how I approach the world, I cannot control what the world chooses to do with my efforts. As such, it is quite easy to feel defeated.   

Familial relationships, romantic relationships, professional relationships, service relationships and daily exchanges with passersby have all deeply challenged my commitment to walking out intention from a “glass half full” perspective. Of particular note, tremendous strength has been poured into managing the disappointment associated with dealing with those who propose to be of equal measure, professing to intend well and desire good, only to reveal that they either have no concept of what that means or have tritely attempted to take me for a fool. 

Ironically, I find that even in the worst of these cases, a positive effect still emerges somewhere down the line. Something supernatural transforms the base composition of most human beings when, in spite of their ignorant, malicious or decidedly passive contributions to the discontentment of others; they are intentionally met with grace, mercy, forgiveness and hope. As painstaking as it may feel in moments of dealing with combative energies, holding to that inner flame which compels me to burn truer, brighter, and longer to achieve a higher end is more than worth the struggle. If this is a foreign concept to you, you must test my claim that anything you do – any end you seek out – in love will bring a mysterious calm to your senses, a far greater peace than avoidance, than denial, than defensiveness… than blindly navigating throughout life. This choice offers a deeper peace because it stabilizes one’s center – one’s point of reference – with good roots, and constantly strives to spread that goodness into the hearts of others, regardless of their state of being. The resulting effects may not be clear, may not be immediate, and may – in fact – never be witnessed by you, but you have engaged and influenced in good conscience, with undeniable intention and, if nothing more, have deposited something beautiful and productive into the universe.

Here I stand, the lioness lamb, 
roaring aloud 
my tender heart. 
I’ve hunted through the wilderness, 
seeking out 
the sacred parts. 
As I approach the journey’s end, 
I know 
what sets apart; 
one who not only finished well, 
but intended 
from the start

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