Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Date: April 30, 2004

evening

A squirrel was on my balcony around seven. I really don’t know how it got there, I imagine it leaped from a nearby beam. The first squirrel to come since the pines came down. In fact, the whole area seemed filled with wildlife. A coyote wandered up the driveway, staring at me as it walked past. I stared back, and asked what it was up to. Ravens, two of them were circling all around, flying fairly close, landing in nearby trees, pecking at the tops of pines, rummaging around in the branches of budding oaks. Birds continued to sing, all types. Now it is night, and the area seems more filled with visitors than normal, enough to make me wonder whether this is a holiday. I don’t think it is.

I am tired now, more tired than I have been at this hour in a while, my mind and body a little weary from exertion, which is a welcomed kind of weary.

Funny thing this writing is, for always, my whole life, I’ve never been able to succesfully write after three in the afternoon. The evening is when I am more social, the morning is when my mind is on fire. I would never even try to write. Yet, here I do. Now, I ‘m not sure if maybe I shouldn’t in fact be writing at this hour, if my mental meanderings make sense. It is a good habit, and maybe this hour is not a time for focus, but it is a time for openness, as if my fingers go to work without conferring with my mind, letting out thoughts and feelings.

Nothing remains in either place tonight, only the continued quest to do what I can, and do that which is before me. This was a weird week, a week in which I shifted somehow, had to wander through some decisions I didn’t know I was making, having to come to terms with that which became overburdensome. It was a week in which a marker made me pause and consider all that is going on, and where it is going. Somehow, even without specifics, I feel like conclusions were reached, insight gained. Only it was not a marker of my maturity. I stumbled along all the way, and feel more of where I should be, than contentment of where I am.

So, I keep on, waiting for my heart to be ‘strangely warmed’, for the door to open, to what I don’t know, only I know it remains to be opened. For years I’ve been hearing ‘wait’, and I don’t know why. But, I do wait.

Some people I know have gotten a bit into the gambling scene. Nothing extreme, no worries on my part, but enough to make points of conversation that I don’t identify with. Gambling has no attraction. The times I’ve been to Vegas I’ve never been tempted to bet on anything, even a slot machine, not because of moral issues, because of interest issues. I’m completely uninterested in it. Now here is why I bring this up. Gambling with cards or in other ways doesn’t have interested because I’m in the middle of the highest stakes a person can gamble with, I’m laying my whole life down there on the table, and trusting the spin to come up my way. More than this, I’m taking what I say I believe, and committting to it, having now left little room to back out. I’m betting on myself, and what God is doing in me, and the stakes are my whole existence. What does the thrill of getting a high hand compare with that?

That’s why I think I’ve no interest in the usual kind of gambling. It bores me, for the stakes with that is just money. Bet a life, bet a life on Life, now that’s a gamble. Faith becomes real, doubt increasingly falls to the wayside, for doubt impedes the progress, takes the heart, makes a person retreat, fills with fear. Not by blindly casting it aside, but by learning to put it in its place, learning to understand faith as it has been taught, faith in the one who has acted. Doubt can exist, to be sure, but it’s also an excuse to do that which we are afraid of doing, to leave safety nets, and so we explain the call on us away by using fancy phrases and well tuned considerations.

No, we, in our depths know it’s all true. That’s what I think. Only we don’t know what it all means, how it is working out, because that requires actions on our part to respond to what we know is true.

If we don’t let ourselves respond, and yet still know what is true, this creates a dissonance which we call doubt. The image of leaping off a cliff over a chasm to another cliff comes to mind. Either one commits or one doesn’t. One gambles on making it, or one turns away. Halfhearted leaping is the most disastrous.

So, I’ve leaped out, come what may. The thing is I’m still in midair right now, I haven’t crossed to the other side. And it is a long jump. We’ll see what happens with it all. It’s too late now to turn back. I hear it is quite lovely on the other side, I look forward to exploring the beauty I find.

morning

Hmm… almost missed this. I got caught up doing other tasks, and just now remembered I didn’t write the morning. I woke up early, ready to go. It was cool and beautiful out, inside in was cold enough to see my breath. The day is certainly Spring. The cool breeze puts in motion all the budding trees and flowering plants. Periwinkle winds its way around tree stumps, and over bare hillsides, its purple flowers everywhere, popping out from hidden places. The light mist of the early morning has burned off, the glistening of the condensation has disappeared. A chickadee chirps in apparent delight.

This is the last day of April. I’m not sure why this has meaning to me, but it does. The coming of May seems like a major change, maybe it goes back to my college days where it meant a finishing for the year.

I’m finding myself easily distracted these days, yet also forcing my way through, trying to be fluid in my pursuits, taking up that which fills and encourages. I’m not getting one thing done in an orderly fashion, instead working on a lot of things. Not having a deadline or someone looking over one’s shoulder has both benefits and cautions. I encounter both on a daily basis.

It is also the case I am drifting ever steadily away from my past. My intentions in coming up here were to stay and refocus for a while, settle some issues, forge new paths. Then the fire came that first month, and I found myself bonding with family, who refused to evacuate, and finding myself distant from others, who thought we all should. The stress of facing flames and praying during such a dramatic time shifted something in me. It was enlivening in a way, reminding me there is more to life than getting a paycheck, more to friendship and devotion than sharing an occasional meal.

Even still I thought to keep connections, to look for ways to come back down the hill, to maintain the friendships, to stay on similar paths. Now, I’m finding this isn’t quite the way of things. Why? That’s what I’m asking myself. What’s the point of that really? I do not have much to offer these days, but that which I do have I did offer, and found myself not as much rejected as just ignored. Which is fine, really. For it tells me that the pursuit of those paths would not have ended well anyhow. It would have been chasing shadows. And God knew.

The temptation is to reject, but I don’t. I would strike up the old friendships in a moment if that was offered. But they are not, and for me to find them, I would have to become someone I am not, to choose a path for uncertain gains, while rejecting the present path towards peace. Deep friendships would not force this choice on me, and some in fact have not, for which I am thankful.

But, with the choice before me, I choose to pursue peace, and now have to find what this means as the transition continues. There is no temptation for me to return. What would I go back to? Why should I fight to find that which is apparently without depth?

This sounds a depressing thought. But it isn’t. For it opens up the possibility of new worlds. I tried the old roads, and now can try paths I haven’t gone down.

The thought of maintaining the old connections kept a leash on my thoughts, for I was always considering how to do what is right and also find a way back. Not as much anymore. Unless a miracle happens, I can’t imagine returning to the old neighborhood, dealing with the old issues, trying to build and be frustrated. This is a freeing thought.

All this doesn’t necessarily mean I’m staying in my present location. I’ve always felt this to be a transitory place, and for good reasons. It is where this is transitioning towards which has been changed in my mind.

I would not have planned this. In fact, had I power in the past I would have stayed in Pasadena, enjoying a nice apartment, and the good friends there. I tried, seeking positions, applying at places I was perfect for, and finding hardly even a response, let alone a sense of hope in the quest. At the end of the year, however, it was beyond my ability to continue without assistance, and the only assistance brought me to where I am now.

So, I trust that God is at work, taking me out of where I wanted to be, taking me away from pursuits I was excited about, to come here, where I never would have come, and now, it seems, beginning to find a future where I never expected even a moment.

Not that I really am sold, even still. I would be sorely tempted to return if I had even one good reason, one way which would make that a realistic possibility. To fight, one has to have something to fight for. That’s why I left, and that’s why it seems increasingly I have no reasons to return.

I note all of this because it is a transition for me, from one life to another. From one which began in 1997 after I graduated Wheaton, and went until 2003 when Fuller finally had finished with me.

It is with wistful thoughts I consider this. I leaped into the river, however, continued my path in the void, and the current has led me here. So I ponder the transition with joy and with a bit of sadness, missing what is behind, not knowing what is ahead, wishing there could be a bridge between the two. Again, though, had there been a bridge I would not have crossed, if the ships were not burning I would get in and sail back.

All is in God’s hands. In that I trust.

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