When it comes to the spiritual enterprise, I’ve always found delight in the iconic metaphor of wandering. My best guess is that it most capably represents my propensity for being lost in places even blind people navigate with ease – a hallway to the bathroom, the distance from upright to nosedive, or retracing my steps from mall to parking lot.
It has found its way into my songs for years.
There are innumerable metaphors employed by the writer’s pen to describe transition, or passaging, as I like to call it. We “turn over a new leaf” or perhaps move from “night into day,” “turn on a light” or some such thing. Such metaphors reach for the deeper comparisons within us between what was, what is, and what is yet to come.
But this is different. Wandering isn’t the right metaphor here. This feels less like seeking something out than coming to terms with what is; a new normal. In that way, it is more the turning of a page in a book with more chapters read than yet to read.
I begin with a few words I wrote upon turning 50 a couple years ago:
“Our lives are a series of passages. One tributary leads to another, which in turn yields to something else on its way to waterfall or harbor, estuary or eddy. At times we are stuck, unmoving. Or so it seems. To be stuck can actually be a decision not to decide something. Perhaps it’s a slow, deep spot before being sucked back out into the rapids where we easily lose our sense of direction and the not unreasonable expectation that we’ll fly ass over tea kettle into the frothy spray. There are even times when our boat slows almost to a crawl and we find ourselves in the enchantments of a Pirates of the Caribbean style rendezvous with delight.”
In the chapter that is my work at Yakima Covenant Church, specifically with friend and colleague Duncan A. MacLeod, a page has turned. A new estuary has emerged requiring caution and intentionality, things I am not always known for. Like me, he too is passaging, seeking to ford new streams of possibility with their own risk and reward. He is writing a new chapter in a book yet unfolding (and a rather smelly, farm-y type one at that!).
“Whatever the case may be it should be our goal to passage well. That is, when faced with life’s bone-chilling decisions, we learn to listen for the most gracious, compassionate means by which to navigate such. Bad transitions lead to less than adequate skills needed for the yet more difficult passages to come. They also create a sinkhole of insecurity since we’ll just have to face similar rapids again later but with one more failure to our credit….I want to say goodbye well, with class, grace and compassion. A goodbye that puts a Gospel period at the end of a glorious sentence.”
Learning to passage well has many rewards. Fewer regrets I suppose might be one. But, more than that, in the ever-expanding journal of our meandering lives, a clarity of chapter markings brings a satisfaction to the sojourner of adequate closure before moving on to another part of their story. It expresses a sense of poise and, ultimately, denouement to our lives that those whose eyes watch us for signs of the Divine are longing to see. More than anything else, how we transition through the passages of our lives reveals the level of our trust in the unseen God making Godself seen – through us. Through you. Through me.
So, then, with the same trembling, inadequate faith with which I’ve typically faced these passages, I do so now once more. Who knows, perhaps this time I’ll have matured enough, even sub-atomically, to the point where I can help lead others in the same challenges?
But, then again, that would be faith in faith, not in God.
Picture found here