Last weekend I spent Saturday at a retreat/lecture with one of my Christian Mystic teachers, Jim Finley. He’s amazing. Wise and profound. But what moved me more than his godly insight was the presence of several other teachers I saw there. My very first ever, spiritual director, Ravi. A woman named Carolyn who counseled me during a challenging post-seminary transition. And my current spiritual director, Greta. They were all thrilled to see me. They are the kind of teachers I’ve always been blessed with throughout my life. The ones who look at me and think I’m just amazing, and see my future as so big and bright. I cherish their vision of me, especially at times when seeing my own potential is clouded by doubts and fear.
During a break, I chatted with Carolyn about how things were going in my life. I told her I’m still on the journey. For a moment as I talked with her, I looked around the room, at a sea of mostly Caucasian faces, mostly 50 years old and up, and I found myself telling Carolyn, that sometimes I feel like an outcast. But it’s not here at events like these that I feel like I don’t belong, here where it may seem obvious I was out of place. No, I told her. It’s out there…amongst my peers, my friends in their thirties, living life, working jobs, starting families, having fun. Out there, this spiritual life isn’t a popular course of life to undertake. “Maybe, to be fair,” I ask her, “it’s not an easy undertaking any age?” Carolyn listened, and when she spoke she told me, “Remember what Jim said at the beginning of the day…the mystic way is like making a U-turn on the freeway in the middle of rush hour.” “Yes,” I told her, “I remember.”
I am one of those wild ones who dared enough to make the U-turn on the freeway…but now I’m sitting here, facing traffic head on, thinking I’m now actually going to get somewhere.
The foolishness of it all. The audacity to believe.
When doubt sets in, you need something to stand on. You need to remember that you’ve made moves like this before and you did in fact get somewhere. You need vision. You need to be able to look back, and look ahead all the while staying present to the now.
One month away from my 35th birthday I find myself excited. Sitting in rush hour traffic, excited. Now I’m five years closer to the big 4-0, which I know many women dread, but I have always had this strange fascination with turning 40. Because when I look ahead, I can see myself there. The same me, just a little wiser, a bit more content, a lot less concerned with what others think of me. I can see her there. Stronger, more convinced that this path she’s chosen is actually trustworthy.
Because I’ll be honest, even as I write and share, the more I write and share, the more people encourage me and thank me for sharing, the more convinced I am I know nothing! Nothing at all. Some days, to be honest, I’m not even sure there is a God, truly. And on those days the peace and the joy that are the promised fruits of the spiritual life, elude me.
So that’s when I look back.
25 was real, wasn’t it? I was just getting set to move to California. I had no idea what was ahead of me, but I had enough money saved to drive cross-country and pay a little rent. I entered seminary, graduated 3 years later with NO MONEY. But I kept following whispers. God kept favoring me. Every turn I took there was a teacher, a minister, a wise counselor. My whole life people have committed themselves to helping me make it through, seen something special in me, walked with me for a season, taught me the way. Taught me to notice God. So now I notice my life seems to follow a pattern. This isn’t my first U-turn on the freeway, and it won’t be my last. Taught me to pay attention to the unfolding. Taught me to embrace my becoming. Taught me to see that if here is good, next is better. Taught me to trust, that I’ve never gone backwards and I won’t go backwards now.
But believe me, when you make that first U-turn…it certainly feels like you’re going nowhere slow. Just breathe. Remember where you’re going, and remember where you’ve come from.