We moved home to New Zealand in January after nearly 19 years overseas. We’ve done a few big, life-altering, relocations in our time. While there’s always much excitement about what’s ahead, change is rarely comfortable, or straight forward. There’s no certainty, there’s no yellow brick road to follow. But if you keep your eyes peeled, there are some useful lessons on the journey:
1 You won’t get anywhere standing still
2 Ditch the map, embrace the compass
3 You’ll find markers, when you need them
4 Without a journey, there is no story
1. You won’t get anywhere standing still
That you won’t get anywhere standing still seems an unnecessary point to make, yet ‘stuck’ is a feeling I’m very familiar with. How often we convince ourselves that it’s safer to stop, and wait. But for what? For clarity? For reassurance? For a neon sign in the sky offering instructions?! I have come to realise that ‘stuck’ is more of a choice, than a place. Why do we wait for what’s next, when the only way to what’s next is to walk through what’s now? If we want to see what’s ahead on the path, the simple option is to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and take a look when we get there. There’s a quote by Vince Lombardi “the man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there”. An excellent point. Whether the road ahead is wide and paved, or obscure and rock-riddled, movement is required to progress. Keep going.
2. Ditch the map, embrace the compass
Maps are cool. They show every twist and turn along the way and allow us to consider the options, choose the shortest route, avoid the unpaved roads. But life doesn’t come with a map. Such detailed directions are not my experience of life’s journey, or even divine direction. I find our faith and values offer something more like a compass. It’s not: first left, second right, take 10 steps, do this, not that. It’s more like: head NORTH.
While ‘head north’ might seem scary initially, vague and insufficient, if we embrace the mystery we discover it’s incredibly freeing. Choosing a path is seldom a matter of ‘right or wrong’, I think most are simply a choice of ‘right or left’. There are many paths that can lead you to the same destination.
3. You’ll find markers, when you need them
I’ve been doing lots of trail walking since we got back. My sense of direction is rubbish and most trails look pretty much the same to me. While I don’t have assurance at every single footfall, I know if I keep going I will find a useful coloured marker at key junctions. They show which track to take depending on which trail I wish to follow. Sometimes they are even dotted along the way to reassure me I’m not lost on my current path. When I need to adjust my bearings, there will be the confirmation I need. I can trust the person who has gone ahead and marked the way.
Growing up in religion I was constantly in fear of being ‘out of God’s will’, or ‘missing it’ when it came to His plans for my life. As if His will was a tightrope and any misstep was catastrophic. The result was fear of failure, insecurity, and analysis paralysis! And how small was that god, that he couldn’t cope with my wanderings. That he would give me free will and yet allow no room for it. Having untethered from such suffocating religious mindsets, I now enjoy enjoy great freedom in decisions. I know a guide who leaves choices to me, and delights in my faith and daring. I can trust I’ll have the clarity I need, when I need it.
4. Without a journey there is no story
Instant fixes seem desirable. Short cuts welcome. Beam me up Scotty! But I’m learning to love the small gains made every day, and value each hard won stretch of trail. Everything I’ve walked through allows me to encourage others on the same journey because I’ve been there, and survived. Of course it’s not all simply survival, or hard slog. The uphills can leave you breathless, but so too can the views. When you stop to rest you notice new and interesting things not found at lower altitudes. You may not even be aware of the distance you’ve covered until you stop and remember where you started.
From there you can help others who need to know the way.
From there we have a story to tell.