We Make The Road Ch. 41
As we walk in the Spirit, we pass through different kinds of terrain. We walk through beautiful valleys where life is full of joy and we feel like dancing. We walk on long uphill climbs where we seem to slide back two steps for every three steps of ascent. We walk along slippery trails where it’s easy to fall, and through swampy patches where we can get bogged down. We walk through dark passages where we can easily lose our way, and across flat terrain where nothing seems to change mile after mile. We walk through dangerous territory where bullets fly and it’s easy to get wounded, and in peaceful places where we can breathe free. Through it all, we need patience, endurance, and perseverance so that no matter what happens, we’ll keep putting one foot ahead of the other. – Brian D. McLaren
This week’s chapter, corresponding with this past Sunday, June 15th, was simple and yet so applicable. The passage above struck me with both its imagery and how analogous it is to this journey of life and faith we all find ourselves on. Each description brought back a memory of a season in life I could identify with. So let’s do that – let’s take a walk down memory lane.
When life is like a beautiful valley:
The first memory that comes to me is the summer my husband and I started dating. We had met over a year before in January of 2008, but up until the spring of 2009 both of us had been dating different people. That spring however was a love story in the making as two seeking hearts found each other. He was searching for meaning to his life, attempting to find faith, and wondering what life held for him beyond graduation in May. I was nearing the end of a six month period of depression, where I felt no one would ever understand how deeply hurt I really was. I threw up shield after shield, but nothing fazed him. He just kept wading deeper and deeper, wanting to know me – the good, the bad, the scared, the lonely, the hurt, the naïve, the girl with the crazy big family, the awkward – everything I thought would send him running didn’t. So that summer was full of love, hearts on fire, my first kiss, our first I love you’s, and dreams run wild. That was a beautiful valley to come to, after such a dark time.
When life is full of uphill climbs, sliding backwards, slippery trails, and swamps that bog you down:
Have you ever noticed that you can be in different seasons in your life at the same time, concerning different aspects of your life? I say that because those descriptions above make me think of a period of several years that began in 2007 and would continue through 2012. A five year period of nothing but climbing and feeling like I every step forward was followed by two steps back. Every time I thought I figured out the right prayers to pray, the right scriptures to read, the right amount of time to spend with God, the right mentor to pour my heart out to, the right church, the right friends — I would turn and find more pain, more betrayal, more failure. I got so stuck I didn’t know where to turn, except off. At first I approached each one with optimism, saying this is an isolated event. You fall down, you get back up, you move on. But as the waves kept crashing relentlessly – time eventually won out and I had nothing left with which to fight the doubt, the bitterness, and the pain.
When life is filled with darkness, bullet’s are flying, and wounds threatens to take you under:
What does darkness look like?
Darkness is running through pouring rain, only to run inside to answer a phone call and hear that a loved one fighting cancer has passed away.
Darkness is answering a call from a college friend on campus that is so distraught, their voice is shaking and they can hardly speak. The news. Our beloved professor’s daughter had been in a tragic accident and was taken from us. An angel none of us will ever forget. She was two.
There are no words for death. It takes our breath away with a searing pain, whether we have time to prepare or not. It leaves us empty, with an aching desperation to know why.
Bullets fly and wounds run deep.
Seeing my sister follow the ever prescribed rules for courtship, modesty, and purity – only to wake up to a nightmare of a marriage quickly destroyed by abuse, addiction, and lies.
Through the shrapnel of supporting my sister’s divorce, my family lost many friends, and our community. We were left with broken hearts and never ending questions of how we ever could champion such beliefs that could leave the broken so abandoned and unprotected all for the sake of the reputation of God, the church, and the community.
Then came the wounds of my own relationships with men. Courtship had obviously failed us, so I stepped into the world of Christian dating. Not realizing I had traded one version of legalism and performance for another. Having no clue of my own value and worth, I believed my life, my opinions, my relationships, and my security was found in both having a man in my life and having that relationship be one that my parents, mentors, and church leaders directed and approved of. While I may not have had a sibling or my family with me on every date, I still spent three relationships trying to fill voids I was oblivious too and scrambled to perform like an ever-dancing puppet. Needless to say so much pressure and the reality of my broken trust in men breathing down on my neck like demons left me in a harbor without a lighthouse. Relationship after relationship left me crashed and broken on the rocks. After the third one failed – depression hit and I hid behind yet another mask.
When life becomes peaceful and you can breathe free:
I close my eyes and think of standing in the pasture as a young girl. Feeling the wind. Seeing wildflowers and rustic Texas beauty stretch out around me for as far as the eye can see. Watching a sunset. Watching a storm roll in over the ranch as sunset and clouds meet in a fantastic display.
You feel as though you are an audience of one, as God paints the sky.
Naïve and ignorant of the world around me? Yes.
But so peaceful.
So hopeful for life to start.
The beauty and innocence of those memories take my breath away. I can feel it like it was just yesterday.
The peace that comes after years of wandering, wrestling, questioning, doubting, and hurting. That feeling of release, when you finally just let go, knowing that you may never know the answer to the why. You may never feel certain about your faith again. However, just admitting that and realizing somewhere along the way you learned to find God and peace in the silence.
Suddenly you realize you can breathe again.
Life and faith are a journey full of seasons. Sometimes we fall, other times we run, and other times it is merely one painful step in front of the other. In the midst of it, you look around at the broken pieces and you have no idea how they will ever piece together. Looking back you suddenly realize that you can turn the cloth over and what was a maze of twisted knots now forms the tapestry of your life that will only be finished with life’s final breath.
The beauty is found in the people we meet along the way.
If we don’t give up, as mile adds to mile, each of us will have some stories to tell… stories of how the Spirit guided, empowered, inspired, restrained, sustained, and trained us in the fine art of aliveness. And that’s another great blessing of being part of a community of faith. Along the way, we gather around a table or campfire and share our stories about the journey so far. We share our joys and sorrows. We share mistakes we’ve made and falls we’ve taken and lessons we’ve learned. We share ways in which we’ve experienced the Spirit moving in us, among us, and through us. Through this sharing, we encourage each other. And then we get back on the road. — Brian D. McLaren
Questions for Discussion:
What seasons did you most identify with?
What memory came to mind that you would like to share?
What season are you in right now?