We need better maps

Over the course of the last month or so something has happened in my soul. I’m not sure what to call it or even know if it’s good or bad. I was building an extra wing on the main house, in fact got pretty far along with it before realizing the whole thing was absolutely unstable. Wouldn’t pass code. Wouldn’t stand up in the weather. Wouldn’t do at all. Only I started with the best intentions and, in fact, started with an eye for detail, having done projects like this for a pretty long while.

This past month I’ve had to tear it all down. Well, maybe not all of it. Hopefully some of the plumbing fixtures can be reused and other things. The foundation, fortunately, is still quite secure. It’s the rest of it I’m not sure about. Of course, it’s always nice to have a contractor around to blame and accuse. But there’s not. It’s just me. Me speaking metaphorically.

All this year I felt a push to get myself out ‘there’, to spend time reconnecting with old friends and investing in new ones. I felt social and outwards, an about face from the drive which pushed me from the city and into the mountains a few years ago. Then I felt driven inwards, parched from overextending myself in spiritual contexts. The kind of parched that might drive a person away from the faith if their foundation wasn’t extremely secure. God has more for a person, I realized and that doesn’t always mean pushing through the frustrations and attacking the obvious barriers. That more is found in the often quiet whispers of the Holy Spirit who guides us each down curious paths towards our fullness. But in emphasizing the moment of salvation as the primary moment in spirituality we’ve put aside our maps and our guidance and our encouragements for when we walk up the steep paths into the mountains towards our maturity and wisdom and freedom with Christ.

So I drove up the mountain in both a real and a metaphorical way, seeking God’s life so that I would not be susceptible to the storms of this present life, so I could minister and share with a wholeness and a stillness that came not from outward circumstances or approval, but rather from the inner bounty of the Spirit of Life itself.

Needless to say that’s not exactly an easy path. Which is why this past year I was curious to feel outward focused again, hoping maybe the push towards silence and isolation had ended. Lots of signs pointed that way. One fruit of my quiet season was plucked and now will be spread widely by being published this Fall. Other things—good conversations, burgeoning flirtations, outward adulations—prompted me to think Spring had truly come.

Only now I sit here, following a month of sitting here, not sure of what to do next. During a brief trip outward I felt the entirety of my Spring collapse, not with any visible sign of disaster. Rather with an inward collapse of the Spirit’s presence in my soul. Conversations seemed to dry up, both because I wasn’t replied to and because I stopped replying. My energy level dropped, ending my reaching out. I felt peace only in the quiet, in the self-enforced silence, in retreating back to my mountain hideaway and staring at trees, listening to birds, watching chipmunks gambol about a thick stand of cedar saplings.

I can’t seem to write anymore. Projects started plead for my attention but the pages stare back at me, laughing at the meager words I produce. I’ve gone inward. And, to be honest, I’m a little worried about it now. One week is fine. Two is okay. Four weeks of this and I’m wondering if I’ve lost that spark.

Maybe this is why a passage from The Hobbit resonated so much with me last night when I read it: “There were many paths that led up into those mountains, and many passes over them. But most of the paths were cheats and deceptions and led nowehere or to bad endsd; and most of the passes were infested by evil things and dreadful dangers. The dwarves and the hobbit, helped by the wise advice of Elrond and the knowledge and memory of Gandalf, took the right road to the right pass.”

I resonate with this because it is exactly how I am feeling. Or rather it’s how I’m not feeling but knowing that God is steering me back onto the right road, through the right pass, which is different than the road I thought to take down the other pass which seemed to be so easy there for a while.

I think we need better maps, because I think this happens quite a lot. Happens so much, in fact, the culture of faith has long justified the brambles and the confusing and the end of trails, theologizing it into some spiritual sounding reality of which there can be no change.

But the Spirit whispers even still. For those who find the quiet this whisper can be loud indeed. Disconcerting to be sure at times. Frustrating even and altogether bothersome, especially when the Spirit says it’s time to backtrack and start over. But the goal is to get over the mountains, to the treasure, to the goal of the adventure for which God has roused this hobbit out of his lazy hole in the hill. And this goal is something he calls me to pursue now, tasting of heaven along the way–even in the darkness and deafening silence.

So, having heard I wasn’t quite on the right path, that I hadn’t quite constructed exactly to the plan, that I maybe have reached beyond grace and sought an untimely satisfaction, I’m quiet again, listening and now writing once more.

This was written May 14, 2007

A couple years ago, Barclay Press invited me to do a two week daily journal for their website. They’ve since changed their online presence so those writings are gone. I was sorting out different files on my computer this evening and happened to run across them. So, I thought, I might as well repost them here. Both to have a record of them, and maybe more so, because this was written early in 2007. A fair bit of changes have happened in my life since then, so these are records of a time in my life when all I had was faith. I was writing a lot during these journaling times, and it’s curious what came out when I sat down to write. So, mostly for me, but also for anyone whose interested, I’m going to post one of these a day for the next couple of weeks or so.

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