Do I really trust God to guide me?
Or do I, like the Israelites in 1 Samuel 8, want what I perceive others to have? The Israelites insisted they needed a King, even though Samuel, whom they trusted, told them all the ills that a King would bring.
For me, I’ve noticed that I take notice when people say, “I’ve lived here for 25 (or more) years.” I do covet that kind of stability… I think.
I wrote in my journal a few months ago that I felt almost embarrassed when I have to confess that we only lived in Bristol for 2 years—twenty-one months, actually, in our own house. However, when I consider the first house we bought near Atlanta, Georgia, in 1983, or the next one in Dallas, Texas, in 1986, or the next one in Columbus, Indiana, in 1993, or even the next one in North Vernon, Indiana, in 2002, none of these were places I imagined staying. I was always glad to move on to another phase, another chance, really.
The fact that we even live in a whole house in Victoria is incredible—a miraculous turn of events, none of which were of my own making. It happened.
I’ve written similar words in hope of acceptance of my circumstance, many times: Keep being in this moment in gratitude or sorrow or anxiousness or joy. Be here in God’s loving presence.
Scott Russell Sander’s notion of staying put, in his book with the same title, challenges me to interpret his assertion for my life. Even though this is what Sander’s did, maybe staying put doesn’t mean, for me, staying in one house or one job or even one community for most of my days. Clearly, that hasn’t been the case.
Instead of dwelling on what I thought I had in another time or what I think I need in this time, staying put could mean being attentive at this moment—to sense the mystery of this time and place I’ve been given.
In Richard Wagamese’s provocative novel, Medicine Walk, the protagonist Frank and his dying father, Eldon, ponder this Mystery. As son and father speak and think respectively in the story:
Got to come to know that things get taken care of Frank. Me, I don’t know if I ever got cozy with the word ‘God,’ but I know something’s making sense out of this. Man’s gotta trust that somehow. So, I figure, what the heck? Even if I’m wrong, there’s worse ways to live than stopping to thank the mystery for the mystery.
…Most of all it was the process of tracking game, letting himself slip out of the bounds of what he knew of earth, and outward into something larger, more complex and simple all at once. He had no word for that. Asked to explain it, he wouldn’t have been able to, but he understood how it felt against his ribs when he breathed night air filled with the tang of spruce gum and rich, wet spoil of bog. That particular magic that existed beyond time, schools, plans, lofty thinking, and someone else’s idea of what mattered.
One of these poignant characters is on the brink of adulthood and one is on the brink of another threshold, death. Both are responding to some kind of awareness of the mystery of living.
Their decisions don’t make sense—a young boy taking leave of his stable daily rhythms to come to the aide of this unfaithful messed up man who happened to be his father. The father asking his estranged adolescent son to provide for him on a journey he wasn’t physically or emotionally able to make on his own.
There is a great mystery to all Mitch and I have done and are doing, and in my new home and community and time of life. I don’t have to know. I don’t have to hold any ideas of what might happen next.
And just like this fictional father and son, I’m not entirely sure who God really is.
Yet, I have an appreciation and vague and embodied awareness of the Mystery that is God and is my home… for much more than 25 years.