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Reflections from Rev. Emily Gage

What Does It Mean To Be a People of Intention?

I can’t help myself. Every time I hear the word intention, I hear that formidable proverb: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” As if good intentions—things we said we were going to do, or things we thought we might do—automatically take us to a terrible place. I realized I wasn’t even sure of the source, and when I looked it up, I found that this saying (or its variation) is as old as a thousand years. That’s one long-standing powerful idea.

It really does seem like when we use the word intention (in whatever form) it’s usually to remark upon how we have fallen short. I had intended to write this column earlier....I had intended to call you...Even when we use it for the future, it sometimes feels like it’s merely a small candle of hope in a windstorm. I am intending to make a difference every day. And so forth.

Clearly, I am carrying a lot of baggage around this word.

But I got to thinking....as I pondered what it might possibly mean to be a people of intention...what if it is okay that failure is built into this word in some way?

After all, we are human.

If we know setting out that we are going to try something new--that an idea or an ideal or something we are committed to is pulling us forward in our lives AND that we might fall short along the way, will that help us cut ourselves a break? Acknowledge that that a wrong turn might be part of the path as we work towards something new in our life?

Maybe thinking of something as an intention, rather than a goal or a resolution, can give us a little freedom along the way. We can still hold onto that intention, even when we mess up, or when it leads us in an unanticipated direction. We can still try again, and again, and again.

As the new year begins, the calendar gives us an opportunity to begin again. It calls to us to move forward in our lives, in a mindful way, with intention. What is it we wish to see in the world, and in our lives? What is it that is called forward from us? And now, how we will act?

Ours is a faith of questions, one that asks us to reflect, to live mindfully. When we are called to be a people of intention, we are asking ourselves where we need to go from here. If we don’t ask the questions, we may end up making unintentional choices.

Ralph Waldo Emerson ponders this: “A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will come out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshiping, we are becoming.”

I look forward to being with you on the path of intention this month. We will listen carefully to what life is calling forth from us, and set out on our way. We may—in fact, we probably will—mess up. But that is part of the deal. We will get back up, dust ourselves off, and keep on going.

If we need help, we will be here for one another.