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.