I’ve gotten in the habit of taking a 20-minute walk on my lunch breaks. This means that I head out of the Conference Center building, take a right, take a left, take a left, take a left, take another left, and I’m back at square one. Direct lines, nothing out of the ordinary.
In a recent passing conversation, a coworker suggested that there are nice sights to see around the neighborhood and I decided, yesterday, to vary my route.
I was feeling really good about things. Seeing new sights, thinking about this note I wanted to write for the newsletter and what it might be about. Into my head crept the old Bjork song, “There’s More to Life Than This.” Yeah, I thought. There is more to life than walking the same square at the same time listening to another episode of the same podcast. There is more to life than this! I was looking at flowers, noticing bees. And climbing curvy-sidewalk hills.
You may think you know where this is going. I traveled a new path, found sustenance for the rest of my day, etc. Scratch that. What happened was: I got lost.
I’ll take this moment to tell you that I have a terrible sense of direction. It’s a thing my friends and family have laughed about as long as I can remember. Realizing I didn’t know how to get back, it became all about my phone’s GPS.
So, about half-an-hour into my 20-minute walk, I activated the map on my phone, told the GPS I was on foot, and followed the directions I saw. But, no! It kept sending me back and forth up and around the same curve. I realized the map was telling me to go down a long staircase carved into the side of the hill – a stairway I had passed more than a few times at this point. Quite honestly, it did not look safe. But, I was now 45-minutes into this 20-minute walk and getting a bit desperate. I’d gone down four steps when a man jogging past called out, “You know that stairway doesn’t go through anymore?” I thanked him and climbed back to the top.
Finally, I stopped wandering and trying. I stopped and stood there. I gazed down at Portland First, its bell tower calling me from way, way, way down in the distance. (Bjork sang in my head, “...To get the first bread of the morning. There’s more to life than this…”)
I reset my GPS, told it I was in a car, instead of on foot, and immediately, a familiar path unfurled. I started walking a curving street I recognized.
Once I got back on track, I had time to think about what this frazzled wandering meant.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve made it my mission to follow the path God is laying out in front of me, holding onto this scripture from Isaiah: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” My path for the past year was wild and winding, up and down and all over the place. And that felt very clear and right. Wandering has come to seem like the thing to do. But…
What if, for now, walking this one square in this one place is okay? What if now is not the time to hand my fate over to the GPS system in my phone? What if walking peacefully and thoughtfully a path that’s becoming familiar and known is good, understanding that, even in this sameness, that Voice is with me, telling me to be still, guiding my steps.
As for a lesson, that’s what I’m going with for now. (And yes, today I took the regular lunchtime walk.)
I know there are times when it's important to remember that "there’s more to life than this," but maybe for me, for now, this particular this-ness is actually just fine.
This post was written for inclusion in the April 2018 Columbia District Newsletter for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of The United Methodist Church.