I starred ***** and underlined and !!!! quite of bit in this chapter from An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor. I like the practice of getting lost when I’m not really lost. Wandering when I have time or when it’s more of a exploration than an actual getting lost. But actual getting lost? Being out of control? Not such a fan.
My dad preferred vectoring to coming to complete stops. His was of saying moving in the right direction, even if not the most direct path, is better than no movement. So as long as I’m going in the general direction, I’m OK.
But that’s the word that stood out to me as I read.
Wilderness. (Odd to emphasize in a week of Celebration, but stick with me.)
“These stories are big [exiles in Babylon, literal wilderness of Sinai, and Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness], but all you really need is a flat tire to find yourself thrust suddenly into the wilderness.” (Emphasis mine)
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can send us into the wilderness. I was on a trip providing member care trip and checked my email before doing a classroom observation. Big mistake. But who knew. A simple email sent me into an unexpected wilderness. Again.
(To this day I feel bad for the person I was observing and supposed to be helping. I sat in the back texting a coworker in Beijing. I was worse than no help, I was in shock and in need of help myself.)
So, yes, wilderness can come in the big. Broken hearts, broken dreams, infertility, children with challenges, medical situations. But they can also come in the small. A cancelled flight, an email, a comment.
Thrust. That get’s right to the heart of it, doesn’t it?
I want to second what Barbara wrote about wilderness brining you into contact with people you might not other wise have encountered. Right now I’m reading a memoir called Resurrection Year: turning broken dreams into new beginnings — Sheridan and his wife Merryn found themselves in a ten year wilderness of infertility. They came to a point where they had tried everything and knew children were not going to be an option for them. How do you move on when your dream is shattered? Thus the title. Through this experience, they met people they would not otherwise have encountered.
I bet you’ve experienced this too. I wrote a post that went viral several years ago. Since I’m not a mom and have never been pregnant, it would seem unlikely I’d have much to do with those who have had miscarriages or wrestle with infertility. But my wilderness experience (of feeling stupid on Mother’s Day when others around me stood because they were moms) has opened a new world and relationships to me.
The last idea from this chapter I’d like to touch on before joining you in the comments is the idea of intentionally getting lost. “These are benign forms of getting lost, I know, but you have to start somewhere. If you do not start choosing to get lost in some fairly low-risk ways then how will you ever manage when one of life’s big winds knocks you clean off your course?”
I’d love to hear ways you’ve “gotten lost” in your country and how that’s prepared you for bigger forms. I’ve mentioned before when I moved to China I only knew a few words of Chinese: hello, good-bye, thanks, and watermelon. Oh the poor meat vendor who had to deal with me pointing at meat on his table and mooing and shrugging my shoulders and then oinking. I now know the difference between beef and pork (and know that the chance of it being beef, pretty slim.) But at that time it was all I could come up with as I swished the flies away and just wanted meat for my taco spice pack from home.
Little could I have predicted the ways practicing getting lost would help me when the stakes were higher. “Oh course I’d have my wife have an abortion if there was a child defect.” Six married men taking an Oral English final. What? And I can think of is my friend Carol Lynn who has Down’s Syndrome.
Or the silent tears that ran down my cheeks after a medical procedure I have called akin to being raped. It was all so stunning, so foreign, yet necessary and done in the name of medicine. Did that really just happen to me? It was horrifying.
From Resurrection Year: “But while the wilderness is a place of struggle and pain, it is more than this, I find. While a place of trial, it is also a place of provision; while a pale of doubt, it is also a place of discovery; while a pale of restlessness, it is also a place of change. Because the wilderness, for the Jews, was a a place of manna and quail coming down from heaven and clothes that never wore out. It was the place where they discovered their identity as Israel the children of God, and that place where God changed their gambling, wayward hearts.”
Thus getting lost can also be a door way to celebration. It may not be obvious, balloons and party hat celebrating, but in the corners of your heart and the fruit of your life see the way getting lost can also be “a place of provision.”
Over to you :). How have you gotten lost? What thoughts stirred in you as you read, underlined, and starred. Any points you disagree with? Disagreements welcome too!
P.S. Next week we’ll looking at the Practice of Encountering Others.
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