Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Day Ten: The Right Step in the Wrong Direction

I took our assignment literally yesterday, spending a good part of the afternoon driving through the hills of about fifteen different towns west of the city, listening to Patty Griffin's "Rain" (an impossibly beautiful song about broken hearts and dashed hopes) and wondering how far I could get before I'd need to pull out the map to find my way home. I used to love doing this. Driving through the mountains of Connecticut while listening to one singer-songwriter or another was one of the ways I occupied myself right after I escaped from my first husband (even when you're in hiding, you still need something to do all day). But now that a tank of gas costs almost as much as a monthly car payment, driving for the sake of driving seems outrageous. I have to say, though, yesterday's excursion calmed me in ways no massage or spa treatment ever could.

It also got me thinking about momentum, and direction--this idea we touched on yesterday that we're going somewhere. To do this, we have to get up off of the couch sometimes; we have to become initiators... and yet somehow balance this with letting God call the shots.

Have you noticed that God (unlike AAA) doesn't map out the whole trip for us beforehand? There's no yellow-highlighted direct route, or alternative scenic back roads marked out in orange. Usually there are just two marks: a giant circle with an arrow marked "Here's where you're headed," and then a tiny dot next to where we're standing, about an eighth of an inch from where we are. "This is your first step," is the implication, but it seems too crazy to be possible. Why? Because if we follow that dot, it will usually move us AWAY from where we want to get to. No rational person would choose this path.

A big part of my spiritual journey has been figuring out when to step away from what a rational person might do, to create some space to see what a person of faith might do. From what I can tell so far, that second person listens for God's suggestions, and then suspends disbelief for long enough to give it a try.

No rational person would choose driving through the country listening to a recently-divorced singer-songwriter wail as a way to restore her equilibrium, but God knows what we need. No rational person would believe that leaving the sugar out of her morning coffee would somehow bring her closer to God's plan for her life, but God suggests that it might. God knows what we need to get going, to build the right kind of momentum and direction (rather than that awful kind that leaves us exhausted and spinning our wheels) and it probably won't make sense to us if we think about it too closely.

So today, let's follow those small promptings. Let's chase after them, even. Ask, "Jesus--what's my next step?" and then when something occurs to you (it may be right away, it may be at nine o'clock tonight) jump in and give it a try. How will you know it's God? If deep down inside, something in you says, "Oh--that would be wonderful, but it's so ridiculous..." then that's your thing.

Speaking of wonderful and ridiculous, let's read Psalm 119 together over the next few days. It's a prayer, essentially asking for God's help in following the path he lays out for each of us. We'll start with the first three sections. My favorite part here is the line that says, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." That seems so honest, admitting that on my own, I'm likely to miss the good stuff.

If the language or imagery in what we read seems obscure, feel free to ask about it. Ask God, that is. I'm consistently surprised that when I pray, "Jesus, this seems like the stupidest, most outdated/obscure/ridiculous thing I've ever read; how could this possibly apply to me?" He answers in some very cool ways. It's almost as if he enjoys the conversation :)

Verse 105 of this Psalm says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path," which seems to indicate that the Bible is part of what he uses to mark our map. Here's to that experience being real for each of us, starting today.

13 comments:

Natasha said...

You are right about driving through mountains, it is so relaxing, I love it! I do agree gas prices are making my drives less and less frequent but I try to go out there once in awhile just to be awed by God's creation, it really makes me think of what heaven might be like...

Kwana said...

Thanks for today's post. I'm happy to dwell in 119. I'm been in the psalms for a while now as my daily reading do this is great.

heiress said...

I will definitely ask Jesus, What is my next step?

the teacher said...

my ex-boyfriend admitted that it made him upset that i depended too much on God to tell me where to go and what to do with my life. i thought it was a good thing. reading this post made me realize, that while it is great to depend on and trust God to show me the right path, i must take part in being available for change.

i also like where it says, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law." many times i have a hard time understanding the "rules" God wants us to follow. they are there for a reason. for our own protection. God is my shield.

i am going on a weekend retreat with my church starting tomorrow morning. i will be praying for all of you!!! have a great weekend. :)

Suzanne said...

Jesus, what's my next step? I just need a baby step to get me on my way, just a direction to go.

I'm going to be praying that over and over and see what happens.

I NEED Jesus to show me or open up a next step for me.

Liza said...

I don't want to go in the wrong direction anymore. I will ask Jesus what is my next step!

rachael said...

I have been feeling a bit paralyzed lately, so asking God for the next step will definitely be on my agenda....

Katie said...

I feel silly saying this, I but I have trouble hearing from God... I feel like I try so hard to ask, "Jesus- what is my next step?" and I look for clues and answers. But- I feel like I overanalyze everything and think that EVERYTHING is a sign and can't decide which one, is the right one! Help!

Anyone got any advice?

Kim said...

On day one of this journey I opened Psalms. Interesting that you and Kwana are going that way too.

Like driving in the mountains, sometimes I get answers when I walk away from my usual distractions and out into nature. It's something about the exercise, fresh air, and realization that I am such a small speck in the grand scheme of things.

Katie, you might try getting away from it all and go to a place that is quiet, peaceful, and awesome. Also, don't put too much pressure on yourself. You are here, so I'm guessing God is already moving your feet in the right direction. Just wait and see :)

Aimee said...

I completely agree that sometimes the most ridiculous thing is absolutely right and I pray for everyone the strength to follow crazy paths!

Tara Ryan said...

It's funny that you mention initiating. That's the thing that God has been talking to be about these past 10 days. "Get out of your box. I'm not going to drop a man into your little world."
So, Sunday I left my box for the day, and the results were amazing! After catching the bouquet at a wedding, I preceded to meet half a dozen eligible, Christian men! That in itself is a miracle, right? Not surprisingly, one stuck out as a real catch and I'm seeing him again tomorrow. Keep praying girls - it's working!

Sarakastic said...

So often I don't do anything because I can't see 8 steps ahead. My thinking is usually "how do I know this isn't one of those choose your own adventure books that always end badly?"

I have to know every single step or else I won't move, I justify this as being smart, or cautious, when really it's something else & I see now that is a problem. Now I need to see what a person of faith might do

ForstRose said...

I'm like Sara and Katie too analyzing everything down to the nth degree and wanting to know where I'm going instead of just following the steps or bit of path that God has revealed and alowing Him to orchestrate the outcomes. I know my outcomes when I am trying to be in control seem to go awry and He always manages better outcomes than I do if I let Him especially when I think that His path is a dead end or wrong way I find that He knew things would come up down my road that I couldn't have in a million years of my worst case imaginations ever predicted and they detour me from His road which though less appealing in my perspective in reality ends up at a much pleasanter wayside than my "sugar-coated" detours that turn sour all too soon.

Melissa