June 5, 2007
Moving in the Direction
I've had directions on the mind since Memorial Day weekend because, if you'll remember, I am not so good with directions and because, I'm proud to say, I successfully navigated myself from my safe, familiar neighborhood
all while my personal GPS (my sister) was on a plane and therefore out of my "I'm lost and starting to panic" reach. I'm still feeling the glow of accomplishment. Some credit for the successful navigation, admittedly, has to go to MapQuest (okay, maybe a lot of credit), but there is something to be said for following directions well--so feel free to post your ooohs and aaahs of awe and congratulations. (Also feel free to send money.)
A need for direction is inherent in our being, I think. And we seem to crave movement, though I'm pretty sure this is not inherent in us but rather a result of the culture we live in. As inconvenient and stressful and frustrating as it is to be lost, in American cities built for driving we don't have to drive too long before we know we missed our road or took a wrong turn, so we can regain our direction and keep on moving relatively quickly.
Being lost figuratively, however--whether it's trying to discover what career we should pursue, struggling to build meaningful relationships, testing gifts to see where we fit in ministry--is often not nearly as easy to fix. In those cases we can easily wander (move) directionless for a few years or more, unsure even what destination we're trying to reach.
I hate being lost. But even more, I hate being stuck. Stuck means no direction and no movement that we can detect. We can get stuck in recurring sins, negative thought patterns, unhealthy relationships, jobs we feel no personal investment in. It's a scary place to be in; often we can't see when or how we'll get unstuck. Frustration and exhaustion mount.
I've been lost and stuck. Neither is fun or easy. But I've learned, and am still learning as I go, the importance of moving toward God in those moments.
That's a nice Christian answer, right? Conveniently vague, something that's easy to tell other people when they're struggling but that means nothing to you when you're actually stuck or lost? Moving toward God is, of course, what I hope to be doing all the time. I have very noble desires about what direction I want to move in in general: more holy and distinct from the world, more compassionate, more generous, more patient, more affirming, more truthful, more . . . But when I'm stuck or lost, the list seems large and overwhelming and, if I'm truthful, not so desirable. In the moment when I'm stuck I'm not sure I even want to be more patient or compassionate. I want someone else to be those things toward me!
The way I'm learning to move in the direction of God right now is to tell him everything. I think about things all the time. I worry about things most of the time. But I don't often talk to him about the daily, nitty-gritty details of my life, which are what mostly consume our thoughts, especially when we're lost and stuck.
I'm a little ashamed to admit it, honestly. I've been a Christian pretty much my whole life, and talking to God is such a basic principle, one I've heard over and over and over since I was young. But it's harder than it sounds. It's hard to be honest with God, even though he knows everything about us. And it is especially hard to talk to him honestly about where we're at when we're feeling
But, after years of being a Christian, I'm finally learning to do it more--and finding that it actually works. It's much better to tell him what I'm thinking about (and even that I can't see how he'll help) than to not tell him at all. And much better to tell him I'm angry (even with him) than to not tell him at all. And better to admit that I'm worried than to worry and not tell him at all. Because telling--especially at the point we feel most detached from him--keeps us moving toward him, in his direction. And I suspect that, as I move toward him through communication, I'll start to move in the direction of some of the other good-but-sometimes-overwhelming list of virtues.
So, after a successful weekend of moving in the right direction, here's to MapQuest and arriving safely to see friends. And, after years of getting lost and getting stuck (and more years of it to come), here's to talking to God in the midst of it, about all of it, wherever we are.