I want to add this quote by Simone Weil to the ones from last week:
That action is good which we are able to accomplish while keeping our attention and intention totally directed towards pure and impossible goodness, without veiling from ourselves by any falsehood either the attraction or the impossibility of pure goodness.
I've been struggling more with those thoughts about not focusing on results or effectiveness or "success" (or not being discouraged by the lack of these). And also the previous thoughts about my life, who I am, not being defined by "the collection of accomplishments (or failures) and experiences and possessions and relationships we have gathered." And it seems to have brought me back to a focus on intention, which Weil mentions.
In human society, it's results that are important (often no matter how you get them). But it seems clear from Jesus' teaching that God cares about intention, not results. It's what happens in the human heart, the will, that matters to God. That is where we submit and accept, or turn ourselves against God's way. That is the only thing we have to offer to God.
And this fits with the acknowledgment that what happens, i.e. results, are in God's hands, not ours. So much stands between what we intend and what we are actually able to accomplish. So many factors, resources, people, are out of our control, yet they greatly impact the results or success of what we attempt. Maybe reaching middle age makes me more aware of the vast difference between what people intend and what actually happens, the severe limitations of human endeavors. Only God is greater than human failings.
I find this also bringing me back to Jesus' focus on intention, and trusting God to ensure a just and sufficient (even abundant) outcome. Weil echos Jesus in urging us to even turn our intention toward the impossible, attempt "pure and impossible goodness." The sermon on the mount shows Jesus teaching this very thing. But if we know it's impossible, how can we possibly try? If we know we will not succeed, experiencing failure after failure, not just in ourselves but in everyone, how can we not give up on the attempt?
Because it's not success or accomplishment that God wants from us. God can produce all the results, all the justice or abundance or peace that is needed at any time. What God asks of us is to will goodness, love, to will in harmony with God's will. God asks us to keep our attention and intention directed toward true and impossible goodness, not because we think we can accomplish it, but because we long to see God accomplish it and have faith that he will accomplish it.
In other words, God wants us to try. Just keep trying. Even though it is impossible, and we are failing, and everyone we know is failing. We will not accomplish the goodness we intend, but God will accomplish it. And if we are to stay with him we must keep trying and believe. That's all God asks of us. To stay with him.