Monday, September 17, 2012

Navigating Life and the Canadian Wilderness

I used to be a blogger.

It’s difficult to write when you have nothing to say.  

When I write I usually like to have a point, to know where I’m going, and to say something that matters.  Otherwise, why read it?  Unless there is a lot of self-mockery.  That makes pointless things worthwhile, somehow.  Universality or something.

This blog has been blank for a long time.  I haven’t had much to say that matters.  All my writing has been sort of rambling.  I’d get to the end and realize I have no real point.  If I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t want to get anyone else lost with me.  

Those who know me well know I tend to get lost (in the literal sense).  Frequently.  I have no natural sense of direction.  When I first moved to this area, I was constantly calling my friends to find out where I was and how I might get somewhere else.  So much so that they all chipped in and bought me a GPS for Christmas.  I promptly broke it and was back to calling them. 

But a strange phenomenon happened last week.  While co-leading a women’s wilderness canoe trip in Canada, I was given a map and told to lead.  And I got us where we needed to go.  All week.  In fact, my navigational skills might be considered stellar.  By some.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this.  I determined there were four things that led to my navigational success.

  1. I consulted the map frequently.  I was constantly trying to match what I saw with what the map said I should see.  If they didn’t line up, I had to re-align myself until I got my bearings.  Sometimes this meant stopping for a bit.
  2. I conferred with my friend and co-leader (Deb) regularly.  We helped each other figure out when we were off-course or reading the map wrong.
  3. I trusted myself.  I didn’t second-guess myself, but maintained confidence in what I believed to be true.
  4. I was entrusted with an important task.  The trip lead (Scott) didn’t carry a map.  No one in the group had a map.  That meant it was up to me not to get the group lost.  I felt I had a significant role to play.
When we got home, Scott had words of wisdom for each of us.  To me he said (something to the effect of), “keep your eyes on the map and you won’t get lost.”  I took it sort of literally at first.   But I know there was more to it.

Lately, my life has resembled my writing.  Rambling.  Uncertain.  Not sure of my point.  Trying not to get anyone else lost with me.

The truth is, sometimes in life it’s easier not to look at the Map.  Not to paddle. It’s easier to float in the middle of the lake aimlessly, feeling sorry for yourself for not going anywhere.  Sometimes it feels so good to feel sorry for yourself.  It’s so much easier than having a significant role to play.  Or trusting yourself.  Or conferring with friends.

You can sit there and tell others what they’re doing wrong.  Or blame.  Or make excuses.  Such a good time.

And then it’s not anymore.  You get stuck on a rock.

I’m not saying it’s not okay to be lost.  We’re all lost sometimes.  But there’s a difference between being lost and being stuck.  I’ve been stuck.  And it’s not such a good time anymore. I’m ready to move on. 

The beauty of a wilderness trip is that God can speak to you in new ways, showing you parallels in the journey for your own life. He’s showing me what I need to do... in four easy steps.  Ok, not four easy steps.  Four complicated, time-consuming, sometimes fear-provoking ways of being.

  1. Consult the map frequently.   When I think of this, I don’t simply think of using the Bible as a how-to manual or road map, but rather staying centered in Truth... listening to God, being grounded on His love, comparing the reality of what I think with the truth of what He says instead of just going in the direction that seems right.  Frequently.
  2. Confer with friends.  Community is so important.  Friends help me to see when I’m off course.  The isolated sheep are more prone to attack.
  3. Trust myself.  Have confidence in who God says I am and in the good gifts He has given me to share with others. 
  4. Believe I have been entrusted with a significant role.  God has designed each of us with genius and purpose to carry out His mission of reconciliation and restoration. He trusts me.
My point is (ha!) … I’m going to write more.  I’m going to paddle.  I’m going to stop feeling sorry for myself.  I’m going to be loved.  I’m going to love.  I’m going live free.  I’m going to live a full life, full in the fullness of God.

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:14-19 (The Message)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

This Tastes Bitter: The Taste of Self-Preservation

Those pithy sayings about the difficulties of life making us better not bitter are not meant for us bitter people, I think.  They may be meant for potentially bitter people, but more likely they’re meant for better people—to feel even better about themselves.  But I may just be bitter. 

I’d really like to be one of the better people, but in reality I think I often prefer to wallow in my misery.  Just for a while.  Just until I’m sick of myself...  I’m sick of myself. 

Perhaps my bitterness comes from a tendency to take myself too seriously instead of seeing the lighter side of disappointments with life.  Maybe I should change the tone of this whole blog and find my voice as a witty humorist who is almost 35, with no babies, no dates, no real job, no prospects and more student loan debt than I care to mention.  But somehow when I try, it comes off sounding desperate and pathetic.  Maybe that’s because I hear other voices—the ones of my contented single friends, or discontented married friends, or the better people telling me I shouldn’t be honest bitter.  Though maybe it’s just my own self-preserving voice.

I suspect self-preservation will be my downfall.  Or the reason I never quite get off the ground.  It is the reason why I’ve removed my last several blog posts, the reason I’m scared to risk, the reason I don’t love fully, and maybe even the reason I’m bitter instead of better.  It’s safer.  It’s the reason I am satisfied with a superficial self rather than my true self.  I wonder what would happen just in one year if I could live my life without self-preservation.

I can’t.  We can’t.  Not fully. We all wear fig leaves of some sort.  But I imagine.  I imagine who I could be if I didn’t hide from God and man.  Mark Sayers says this is true holiness.  “Holiness is not about pointless and impossible perfectionism.  It is about becoming the people we are meant to be.  It is the ultimate discovery of our true selves.  Each step toward holiness brings us closer to becoming who we really are.”

Being sick of myself is often the thing that makes me want to trade in some self-preservation for a taste of holiness, a taste of God’s work of restoration in me and in the world.  But then, if I did that, I might forget why I’m bitter.