Divine Provision or a Divine Test? Wrestling with Ethics and Choosing Gratitude

Before we went to the river walk yesterday, I was imagining just how great it would be if I could find some turkey feathers on the walk (I especially love incorporating feathers into my artwork). I’ve only found two turkey feathers during my countless walks in my 9 years in Maine. So I didn’t think I would find any yesterday. But I hoped the universe would smile upon me and I would find some.

So we go on the walk and lo and behold, here’s this turkey feather right at this memorial stone, clearly put there by a fellow human.

At first I was a little stunned. It was so obvious I didn’t have to look for it. On one hand it seemed like a gift for me.
However, someone clearly put that feather right there at that memorial. Problem is, I have no idea if it was intentionally done to honor the deceased OR if someone found a feather, wasn’t sure what to do with it, and just stuck it right there because it felt better than tossing it back in the leaves.

I was left in quite a pickle. I had no idea if that feather was for me to take or not. If this was an actual grave there’s no way in hell I would take it. That would be so obvious. But a memorial on a public walk? Just how sacred is this spot and what were the intentions of the person who placed that feather there?

I told Robert I didn’t know what to do. He said the feather would do more good for the living than the dead. Which I suppose is true. But I remembered that I wanted a turkey feather on this walk, and although I didn’t actually *ask* to receive one, this feather was here as if waiting for me. I mean, that’s a sign, right?!

Lately (like, the last several years) I wish I could just get a break. Let things go my way. Hey God, a little help here?? And little things do happen for me lately that feel like answers/blessings, but it’s hard for me to receive/take at times.

For example: I recently went to Goodwill and bought two pairs of jeans. One pair was too small but I thought they might fit me in the future. These were seriously vintage jeans, exactly like ones I’ve been wanting but haven’t been able to find. I debated whether or not to get them because there’s a large chance I’ll never be able to wear them. I finally decided that if they never fit me then I can try to sell them as vintage jeans and perhaps make a profit. Acquiring these jeans was an opportunity I simply couldn’t pass up.

As I was paying at the register, I was shocked at how low the price came to be and realized the clerk forgot to ring up one of the jeans. I was quickly met with an ethical dilemma: Do I tell her she forgot to ring up the jeans and pay for them? Or do I stick with my belief that Goodwill, a for-profit company, already charges way too much for freely donated USED clothing, and that I’m a person who could legitimately use a “handout”? Normally I’d correct the error and pay, but isn’t it possible this was just a nice break for me to enjoy? It seemed an unusal coincidence that I debated whether or not to buy a pair of jeans, and that when I decided to go for it, suddenly they were “free”.

I decided to let the situation remain as it was and chose gratitude that just perhaps the universe was smiling at me and giving me a free pair of jeans.

You see, I’ve never been a “taker”. I’ve been the passive female who is afraid to take up too much space or be seen as anything short of humble and kind and accommodating. I’ve slowly been learning to start taking, to metaphorically hunt (and someday literally hunt) for what I need and want in order to survive and thrive. Go after it. Take it. Just do it.

So bringing it back to my current story… here’s this gorgeous feather, a feather that I imagined and really wanted before I even saw it, but there’s uncertainty about if it’s meant for me or to honor the dead. And like any spiritually conscious individual, I automatically assume there’s some divine plan at work. I want to sit here and know for certain whether this is some divine gift or some divine test. My framework for understanding this life, inherited from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, wants to continue in the paradigm of duality, to be able to judge the moral rightness or wrongness of this entire situation. What is the correct action? What is the morally right thing to do?

“Ah look, I wanted a turkey feather and the universe provided! If I do not take it then I display a lack of faith and gratitude. God provided… how dare I refuse?! Enough with this false humility crap, just take what’s been given and be thankful!

“Ah but wait, is this truly mine to take? Am I being tested? Is the universe testing my integrity to see if I will take what does not belong to me? Am I supposed to wait for some other provision? Is this to teach me that wishing and praying/asking are two different things?? Because I didn’t ASK to receive a feather. Maybe this is not God’s provision at all…

There’s no way to win. There’s no way to know for certain, beyond all doubt, what the heck was really going on here. Unless I come across the person who placed the feather there and understand their intentions, I will NEVER know for sure whether I should have taken it or not.

I took the feather.

Even now I still feel a little uneasy about it. One could surmise my uneasiness is my true conscience, the voice of the Holy Spirit, telling me that what I did was wrong, that I should not have stolen the feather. OR, my uneasiness is the same hesitancy I feel about taking anything of which I do not feel quite worthy, my struggle of taking up space and asserting my rightful power and desires…

Here we go again, the same dilemma of NOT KNOWING. Am I experiencing reasonable guilt or am I experiencing undue shame??

I could go on and on with this forever, wrestling myself, wrestling the universe, forever questioning my choices and motives, trying to determine whether I’m blessed or just an asshole. But it’s unproductive. I’ve been here before… many, many times. I spent a lot of energy and lost a lot of sanity searching and defining absolute truth for so many years. And it always eluded me. Finally I had to give up before I went completely mad. I had to find a new way to live, to let myself be uncomfortable, to navigate the gray areas of life and find something outside of rationality and black and white logic to cling to in the midst of my great unknowing… you know, things like mercy and grace and a higher Love that empathizes with my human experience and is unconditional no matter what..

And so, instead of going completely mad and wasting energy trying to determine whether taking the feather was right or wrong, I will find a new productive path. I will shift my focus and my energy.

I took the feather, and I will own that choice with confidence. I will focus on the personal meaning I ascribe to turkey feathers, which is provision and gratitude. I wanted something, and it was provided. I am thankful for this feather which came to me during a very rough time and gives me joy. It will always remind me of the day I went to the river to restore my soul and how healing it was for me.

(To read about my lovely day at the river, check out my Instagram post: https://www.instagram.com/p/B30Bqb2l4MZ/?igshid=1u6b6lv5uq6y8)

In short, I choose gratitude. No matter the question, no matter the dilemma, gratitude is always the right answer.

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