“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” — The Real Work, Wendell Berry
It was a Very Long Summer.
A wonderful summer, don’t get me wrong. I clocked more hours with my girls that I thought humanly possible. I crossed the Atlantic for the first time since giving birth more than a decade ago. I whittled away the days with family and friends, ate corn right off the grill and tomatoes right off the vine, warm from summer heat. I stayed up into the wee hours watching movies and making paper monsters and playing cards and swimming in the dark. I introduced the girls to ST:TNG and had more conversations about exploration, star dates, androids and the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe than I could catalog.
What I have not had: Exercise. A pedicure. A good nights’ sleep. A clean house. Time to connect two thoughts.
For an introvert like me, hands-down the biggest sacrifice I make during the summer months is solitude. I am never, ever alone.
My utter inability to have time with myself — to think and pray, to connect mind and heart, to simply sit in silence — finally caught up with me as summer came to a close, forcing me to admit, first to myself and then, slowly to everyone else, that I was — am — completely spent. I have nothing, absolutely nothing left to give. Thankfully, school is now in session and the girls are beyond excited by the year ahead. We are all of us ready for the adventure that awaits, for our world to grow again, to expand past the boundaries of our own immediate concerns and community. The winnowing work of summer found purchase, creating space for us to rest, regroup, process the months past and dream big dreams for the months ahead. Now those dreams are waking to fullness, unfolding their wings and taking flight. I think, yes, it will be a good year.
Despite my inability to pay close attention, God nevertheless was on the move, much like in ancient days as the Spirit (ruach) hovered over the deep chaos that preceded genesis, readying to unleash a creative work. I have heard God* deep in my bones — disorienting and essential, unnerving and formative, this beckoning to go further up and further in that requires you leave behind what you think you know about God, about yourself, even about the way forward. The tug that puts you once again on the road less traveled, where pilgrims wander and the void stretches as far as the eye can see.
Like Abraham, I have no idea where I am going, only that the way itself is God’s presence, an invitation to explore the vast and wild terrain of his eternal city.
I know a wee bit more about Ur, about what I’m leaving behind, long-engrained habits of mind and practice that need to go:
- the tyranny of the “right” theology
- a preference for certainty over mystery
- a disembodied faith
- a way of reading the Bible where tension is squashed beneath the weight of proof-texting rather than embraced as epistemology
Perhaps I know more, too. I know that I am desperate for an incarnational faith, where feet and hands are valued in spiritual formation as much as brains and Bibles. I seek a peripatetic approach, one that is less about sitting and studying, less about landing faith in intellectual asset and religious gerrymandering, more about encountering The Way in the face of the Other. I want the kind of faith that partakes more easily at the communion table than the lectern, that sneaks away from the halls of religious privilege, fully aware of the the subversion of it all. I want to make room for silence in liturgy, let the pendulum in my heart swing toward the still, small Voice and away from the incessant talking that makes it difficult for this parched soul to drink deeply. I want to be open to the guides I’ve long distrusted — the foreigner, the marginalized, those from different faith traditions, from voices that precede both the Reformation and the Enlightenment, from those who’s bodies don’t bespeak primogeniture.
In practical terms, this means I’m going to write about the road ahead, as I travel it. I wish I could tell you more about what to expect, but I cannot, because I do not know. This road, as the Spanish poet Antonio Machado says, is made by walking.
I’ll let you know as I go what they are saying.
*I was sorely tempted to use the feminine pronoun, “her” here instead of the general “a.”. Did you know ruach, the Hebrew word for the Spirit in the act of creation (and elsewhere) is feminine? But I figured all things being equal I should probably not freak everyone out just yet but using female signifiers for God. But, people, stay tuned.