I find the path one step at a time. The way forward is imagined but ultimately unknown until my leg extends and I place the sole of my foot on the ground before me. From this new vantage point, my eyes scan the ground below and the terrain beyond. My ears discern movement from that which goes unseen but whose presence can impact my next move.
Away from home during this sabbatical year, we are living Advent in an unknown land. The way forward it not known until we extend our legs and find our footing.
Where do the Christmas decorations go in this rental house?
How do we still feel the Advent rhythms away from our church’s rituals?
How do we practice Advent in our small congregation of 5?
Who is this newest little one among us? What will he bring to our family?
When will his nighttime hours extend? How long can my sanity last on just accumulated sleep?
When will strength replace weakness within this body of mine?
What is this world we live in? Will we even recognize this country of ours after January 20?
Where is the rescue to come from for the people of Aleppo, for immigrants, for racial discrimination, for journalists, for our environment, for our souls?
What are we to do in response to all the hurting in this world?
“The Indians, then, who had the wisdom and the grace to live in this country for perhaps ten thousand years without destroying or damaging any of it, needed for their travels no more than a footpath; but their successors who in a century and half plundered the area of at least half its topsoil and virtually all of its forest, felt immediately that they had to have a road…
A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with the known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.
A road, on the other hand, even the most primitive road, embodies a resistance against the landscape. Its reason is not simply the necessity for movement, but haste. Its wish is to avoid contact with the landscape; it seeks, so far as possible, to go over the country, rather than through it… its tendency is to translate place into space in order to traverse it with the least effort. It is destructive, seeking to remove or destroy all obstacles in its ways.” – “A Native Hill” by Wendell Berry
This Advent, we are finding the Holy Way one step at a time. We are walking the footpath through unknown land as we wonder where we will settle as each day ends. When the questions feel overwhelming, I long for the construction crew to demolish the obstacles and pave over the experience. I desire expedience and efficiency.
But a paved road would destroy the shoot that is growing quietly and steadfastly from the stump of life as I had known it. It is that shoot that will give way to branches and their fruit. It is from this tender shoot that God will bestow a spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and trembling awe.
“We do not think ourselves into a new way of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking,” Richard Rohr writes. So I am finding the path one step at a time. I am learning that the practice of forgiving and listening can keep me busy enough so as not to be overwhelmed by all the landscape still to cover. I am choosing the “pause” button rather than “fast-forward.” I am seeking a content but curious heart that obeys the landscape.
As each day ends, may it be said that I honored the obstacles, respected the path, and trusted the One whose companionship is most powerful in unknown lands. Above all else, may the words on my lips as I fall asleep be, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”