Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Where's the Map??

Very often along this journey, there haven't been "lofty", "spiritual", things going on. I'm finding that's even moreso now that its April...and I'm due to start Seminary in August. The rubber is meeting the road, so to speak. What's happening day to day on the spiritual journey this last 10 days or so is facing practical challenges. I find myself struggling with those things. And I find myself reflecting that this IS the "lofty", "spiritual" journey. So often it seems that what I struggle with "up in the clouds" is what I struggle with in the minutia of the everyday.

Untangling from the world financially is a challenge that is proving harder than I thought it would be. It's complicated by two things. One is the obvious - starting in August I won't be earning the income I have for going on 10 years now. It's tempting to "blame" it on that. Blame's not the right word - I'm excited and looking forward to entering the seminary. It's not like this is being done TO me. Maybe its more accurate to say its tempting to believe that entering the seminary is the cause of this struggle. And it is - but only in part.

The other part is, for several years I had not been as responsible as I needed to be with my finances. Some of that irresponsibility was made easier to continue with the idea that I'd be continuing to earn an income that could address it. When I began to get serious about my discernment, I knew unravelling the financial situation needed to take a front seat. And I was willing to that. And I began doing that. That's the second complication - just the nature of the situation I had created financially. And now, its April.

As early as last year, I began to make financial decisions knowing it would be possible that come August I'd be in seminary. I made a plan, God blessed me with the providing a way to make that plan possible, and I have been able to make a big dent in the debt. About a month ago, I began to get even more real with what was there - what needed to be addressed - and what I had available to address it. And I began to pray in earnest about how this was going to be worked out. The house. The car. The remaining debt. And try as I might, I can't find a plan that works. I don't have a map...

About two years ago, I sat in my spiritual director's office and said, "I just need a map. Where is God calling me? How do I get there? If God will give me the map, I'll go. But I can't go without a map." And you know what? I learned in that process that I CAN go without a map. And that very often God asks us to walk one step at a time...without any map. We take a step, and ask, "Where do I place the next step?"

When I was looking for that vocational map, I could never have dreamed that the journey between then and now would have been as wonderful as it has been. There have been many valleys and deserts to cross. But without crossing them, how would I know - deep within - that God walks there, too? There have been many, many ridges too. Many chances to visit on the "Mountain of God". Without those experiences, how could I have ever known that the valleys and deserts lead to the moutaintops? And - without all of what's transpired in those years - how would I have come to know God better? Come to be able to enjoy a little more every step of the journey? Come to know God a little better as a travelling companion - not just a benevolent and sage being "Out There"?

But I realized in the last couple of days, I'm struggling once again with not having a map. Instead of walking one step at a time with God through this piece of preparing to enter the seminary, I've spent nearly a month trying to create a map. Instead of praising God for having brought me as far as He has in tackling the 'financial journey' - I've stood in fear and doubt at not seeing the rest of the path to August. Just like when I started the discernment, my prayer has been "God - show me the plan." I realized this past weekened, God has been answering my prayer in NOT revealing a plan to me. Because, the answer isn't "a plan". The answer to my prayer is Him helping me understand I've been asking the wrong question.

If we're on a journey without a map, we can do one of three things.

We can stand still - afraid to move in any direction because it may be the wong one. I've done that - with discernment, and with the finances. I've done that with relationships, with career. I've done it with many things. And its never served me well. Frozen in fear blocks us off from live, and from God, and from any sort of progress.

We can guess which direction seems right and head off that way. And many times the world tells us that's what we need to do. After all, we can't just "stand there" - can we? So, we guess, and we go. I've done that with the finances and many other things, too. And sometimes I get where I'm headed. But, just as often, I move farther away from my destination. And the frustration that I feel when I realize it sends me back to being paralyzed with fear.

The third option is to stop and ask someone who knows where we're headed for directions. Often they can't tell us 'turn-by-turn' from here to there, but they know for sure what the next leg of the trip should be. And we can always stop for directions when we get there. Looking back, I can't think of any situation in my life when I've asked God, "OK - what next?", then did just that part, and stopped again to ask - I can't think of any situation where I've done that and it didn't turn out better than I could have expected.

I don't have to ask for a map. And I don't need one. I can stop and say, OK God - what's the next step? And take that step - even if it is scary, or embarassing, or uncomfortable. And trust that, if I do that day by day, I'll get there.

On Wednesday, I'll DO what I feel like God is saying is the next right step. For today, I don't have to think any farther ahead than that. And I can again practice walking with God as a loving companion along the journey, instead of relegating Him to a simple maker of maps.

Pray for me.