In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted. ~ Bertrand Russell
As Jim and I enjoyed a hike through the woods, our narrow path eventually merged onto a gravel roadway. I blissfully continued on this wider route until Jim called from behind, “Honey, the path continues over here.”
I had completely missed the little blue and yellow triangles that marked our route! (If you look closely at my photo, you can see these triangles on the larger tree trunk.) Since the roadway was easier to see and follow, I neglected to pay attention to the trail marker and smaller path leading elsewhere into the woods.
These wider roadways – the usual route, the obvious path, the popular way – beckon me as I travel through this life. At times, I have been drawn to the paths that are more familiar, practical, convenient, or traditional when making life decisions. And I’m grateful that these paths brought me to this time and place in my life, but I sometimes wonder if I missed some other opportunities along the way.
For a variety of reasons, Jim and I have left our long and well-traveled path of serving within a church community. Our departure began when Jim took a leave from pastoral ministry during the pandemic. This was the first time our path didn’t simply merge onto the next one; there was no new church waiting for us, no previous community to reconnect with. In that time of isolation, while we observed our faith practices at home, we missed the gifts of belonging and serving within a church congregation. But – like so many others – we also began to question some of the purposes and practices of organized religion.
Last spring, feeling muddled about where to go from here, I designated a one-year pilgrimage, a journey of spiritual reflection and discovery. As I prayerfully discern new ways to live in faith and community, I’m watching for the easily missed trail markers, the subtly veering paths, the routes that are unfamiliar yet beckoning. My word for this year is venture, which helps foster a new sense of exploration and open-mindedness. This wandering feels unfamiliar – and yet feels right for now.
I trust that God is holding Jim and me as we continue discerning this next path.
I also trust that God is present when we gather with family and friends to share a meal… that God is hearing our praise and gratitude when we hike in the beauty of creation… that God is moving when Jim and I read, reflect, and pray each morning… that God is speaking through conversations with friends over coffee… that God is nudging when we are prompted to kindly bless another… and that maybe God is the One who initiated this restlessness in our hearts – and is guiding us to find our most faithful way home.
Have you been following a path that is familiar and convenient, but no longer feels right? Do you feel a longing to venture into new and unexplored trails? May you feel God’s companioning presence with you in these days of discovery and discernment.
Photo by Karen, Meeks Mountain, WV
I chose stoicism rather than crying out to God.
It might have been a path chosen from pride, and, indeed, the wrong one.
It came with a cost, but the highest price wasn’t paid by me; I implicitly committed Barb to the same road.
The pathway that I’ve taken
I have not walked alone,
and now my heart is shaken,
and now I must atone
for what I made you, dear, endure
as these years I’ve slowly died.
I had thought my way was pure,
but it was paved and lit with pride,
trod in my stoic coat of mail,
not allowing sympathy.
Day on day I built a gaol,
but its inmate was not me.
I placed you there that you might live
riven from the love you’d give.
At the risk of being wordy (and asking your indulgence), below is the original sonnettary comment. I was adding a short prologue about stoicism having been the wrong road, when I realized that I had made it All About Me, when it isn’t About Me At All.
The night is overwhelming me,
and there’s no answer to the Why.
O, grave, where is thy victory,
but I do not know how to die.
Appealing to the Highest Court
brought me an answer, No.
There’s nothing left, no last resort,
but I don’t want to go.
It would be undignified
to kick and rail against my fate,
but maybe my heart’s lignified,
and the Court and jurors wait
to see me prostrate on the floor
before they open healing’s door.
And, if you’d like a smile for the morning, a quote from Barb:
“Anyone who calls it ‘organized’ religion has clearly never worked in Music Ministry.”
Thanks for the smile (so true!) – and I hope that you can set aside your cares about knowing how to die. You seem destined to live a long time.
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Karen, my doctor (who has since died) could not figure out why I am still alive. There are so many tumours, so much deterioration in cardiac and pulmonary function.
And I am still here. Has God just overlooked me, or is there work yet to do that transcends the physical fabric?
Wish I knew, glad I don’t. Days I can’t walk (yeah, literally) I’m not too proud to crawl.
Just know, now and always, that your friendship ranks among the greatest honours I’ve received .
I respect you SO MUCH!
Well, for whatever reasons you remain, know that I’m grateful, Andrew. I have cherished your friendship and insight. Thank you for your very kind words. I’m humbled. Sending hugs!
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Again. another profundity falls from your heart (and computer hands) to my ears! For me, when I ask where to turn or what to do, God has this habit of “stretching me” until I think I can go no more. Then he steps in and answers my questions & concerns; maybe not the way I wanted or thought, but his way. And his way is always so much better than I could ever come up with on my own. My personal opinion..God is asking you to at least continue this blog as a way of feeding God’s words and your thoughts & personal stories so that we (me) find a way to relate and dont feel isolated from “community”. I hope that makes sense .
Oh Kay… thank you for your honest words and life. “Stretching” is the way we grow, isn’t it? Love this thought!
And thank you, too, for your gracious affirmation of my writing. I have had this post ready for weeks but was hesitant to share my struggles. Your encouragement is timely and precious. Love you.