I’m inspired this morning by Ted Gossard on slowing down. He talks about “the Word of the Lord” (a phrase for you fellow post-charismatics) to most of us being, “whoa” or some variation of “slow down.” Our tendency is to run ahead, set our strategies, and work them relentlessly (though perhaps not tirelessly). Perhaps in the process, even when we’ve not lost our way completely, when we’re just a bit disoriented, we still tend to plod along without further evaluation. Transparently, Ted writes,
I feel lost even as I’m typing this post. It’s almost automatic of me that I’m ahead of the Lord, and therefore not really myself, as God would have myself to be and as he is remaking me in Jesus.
So what then, and now? I have to stop. Listen. Wait. On the Lord. Pray. Read Scripture slowly, and preferably out loud, even if in my mind. I know that as I do this, in faith, God will help me to get back to where I belong as his child, and as a brother with our Brother, in fellowship with each other in him.
Somewhere in my mind, I connected the dots between what Ted is saying and the recurring journeys without maps theme regarding the missional order, to peregrinatio, to finding God in the Silence, and most significantly, to Being Found, which brings us back to Three Remembrances for Living in Exile (again on the missional order) and the realization that I’ve written quite a lot about this already, particularly in the past six months.
I know, I suppose, a little of what Ted is feeling when he writes about feeling lost… and though it may still be a bit beyond what I know, his advice to slow down is sound. Ever a fan of learning through metaphor, I thought about the most common advice to those who are lost: stay put and wait to be found. Even before that though, comes the instruction to remain calm, because “The difference between not knowing exactly where you are and being lost generally comes down to this: panic.” Anxious decisions are most often flawed or downright bad ones, which means we need to make peace with not knowing exactly where we are. Our anxious decisions seem small, but “It’s incremental. Little mistakes that build on one another until you find yourself in trouble.”
It’s getting harder and harder to slow down, too. We’ve built a reliance on our accumulated knowledge and technology, so we’re increasingly less likely to listen when “A survival instructor says if you are lost in the wilderness, don’t rely too much on technology and stay in one place. If you move, he said, the odds of being found diminish.” Our technology and perceived expertise tells us it’s not okay to be lost. Our ingrained self-reliance tells us not to sit down and wait to be found… or even to admit we’re lost. Even Daniel Boone once wrote, “I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.”
Perhaps “lost” is simply being disoriented and being anxious about it. Disorientation is okay… it’s a temporary condition. I’ve said before that it’s imperative to know where we are before we move… but is it not possible, perhaps, that sometimes God lets us lose our way precisely so that we’ll stop and listen? To become re-oriented again? The degree to which we attune ourselves to this will in no small way determine how many wrong steps we have to backtrack over a string of little mistakes that we think might put us back on track. All of those are born of the “rugged individualism” that tells us to work it out for ourselves… when the best thing we could do is sit down, shut up, and listen. And if it takes a while to hear, take shelter. But wait. When you don’t know where you’re going, it’s unwise to be in such a hurry to get there.
I was just pondering your ‘On Being Lost’ article. Just this morning I was reading the first few chapters of Luke. I have always appreciated the story of Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem (Ch.2). Both Simeon and Anna had the custom of waiting on God as they had developed a life of communion with Him. They were sensitive to and recognized the nudge(s) of the Holy Spirit. They were overjoyed at this convergence.
At this momentous instant of time, all these lives intersected. These two elderly saints were moved simultaneously towards this young couple–who had come to present their offering according to the Law. A great story! It is an encouragement for us to go back to the basics of living before God and being sensitive to His voice as these faithful (and elderly) saints were accustomed to doing.
The Luke story, the Christmas story, is a reminder of the need to be filled with the Spirit in order to see God’s Kingdom come and be active participants in the Spirit’s daily/weekly/monthly strategies. This is often with the backdrop of ‘nothing much seems to be happening’ and ‘I don’t feel anything much’. I must keep reminding myself that it is a walk of faith by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit and that God’s Spirit is always active and doing something in our world and in us. :) Just a few thoughts from Barb.
Thanks for your additional fine thoughts here. I especially like the thought of not panicking with anxiety. That important for someone like me, who especially in the past have been prone to do that. And even in the present, I am tempted that way sometimes sorely. I either always regret that, when I give in, or I have to backtrack to where I was before anyhow, and the starting over often seems more difficult than before.
I like your thought about the Lord letting us get lost. Reminds me of the words of Rich Mullins, I beleive: Lost enough to let myself be led.”
When commenting I can’t read into the right margin. Don’t know how to move that right sidebar.
Oh well, I guess I should have done what i just did. Thanks again.