Cliff hanger

Tonight, I accidentally turned on the radio in the car. Lately, I’ve been driving around in silence because I keep forgetting to charge my MP3 player holding my audiobook. Life has been passing at warp speed, so the quiet is actually nice at times. I can hear myself think in full paragraphs instead of soundbites. But, tonight when the radio accidentally started playing, it was tuned to a Christian radio station. I figured since I was on the way to Bible study, it wouldn’t hurt to leave it on. And, the very first song I heard made me flip through the various reflections that I’ve been having lately.

I realized the other day that right now, for the first time since I was a junior in college, I can’t see a clear life path for the next three years. Sure, I graduated from college not sure of which grad school I was going to attend, but I was confident about pursuing graduate studies. Sure, I looked at what probably seemed to my realtor like 1,001 houses before I found one that suited me well, but I knew that I wanted to buy a house. But, now, I don’t know. I honestly sense a restlessness in my spirit that tells me that something is going to change, but I don’t know what it is. Part of this is still due to a romantic breakup in the spring, one that left me internally screaming (and sometimes externally screaming), I’m 31! What is happening? Where’s the family I always wanted to have? But, this restlessness goes far deeper than that now. Somehow, as I was busy talking myself out of working at a great place, trying to mentally prepare to relocate and get married, I tore up a path as I went. And, I’ve tried to go back down the path, back to being an English teacher, back to visions of waking up when I’m 50 to grab a cup of coffee and film my holographic responses to student papers. But, it’s like there’s a fence in the old path. It’s not that I couldn’t climb over it and keep going with what I’m doing, but I’ve taken note that there’s a fence, something keeping me from going back the way I came. There’s a barrier on the safe path that I was strolling.

Now, I feel like Indiana Jones in that iconic scene when he’s at the edge of the cliff.

He has to go forward. And, what I noticed tonight while I watched the video is that he says he has to take a leap of faith, but really he takes a step with one foot. That goes against logic. Any self-respecting macho hero should have taken a running leap, gotten as far as possible. But, I think he understood faith. Take one step. Recently, we had a day of prayer at school, and I was convicted about the fact that I often give up far too easily when I’m praying because I expect God to reveal the two year plan, and I scorn an answer to prayer that only reveals the next step. When it comes to only knowing the next step, I am bad.

Actually, I’m like that poor little children’s book character Alexander. I’m horrible, terrible, no good, very bad — bad at being content with seeing just the next step. Only knowing one more step means I can’t hoard resources for step 2. It means I have to answer people with “I don’t know” for step three. And, it means I have to lean on God, trust Him, really and truly acknowledge that He’s God and that His way is what I want — really want — even if it means prying my fingers off other pursuits, even if it means letting him teach me lessons in ways I don’t want to learn them.
I’ve been reading The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions, which is a book I highly recommend. In the book, Jeff Manion emphatically argues that ” the land between [the place where it’s unclear where God is taking us next] can be profoundly disorienting. It also provides the space for God to do some of his deepest work in our lives…God intends for us to emerge from this land radically reshaped. But the process of transformational growth will not occur automatically.”

Later in the book, he talks about the role of discipline, the kind of discipline that keeps us consistently turning to God. To illustrate this discipline, he mines the Rocky movies, reminding his readers that Rocky movies count on epic training montagesĀ to add tension in the plot, to pull the audience in, to make them believe that Rocky is pursuing a goal worth reaching. And, it’s true. I know my readers are probably humming Eye of the Tiger right now. I haven’t even watched a Rocky movie from beginning to end, and I have it in my mind.

Manion goes on to point out that “discipline is not an interruption in the plotline of the movie but an essential part of the film…Without it, the story flattens out, becoming devoid of purposeful struggle. The plotline, ‘naturally gifted athlete does nothing particularly demanding in preparation but easily wins the title,’ is just not an interesting movie.”

I know that I don’t want people to say when I die that my life was just not an interesting life. And, discipline, including the discipline of taking one tentative step at a time, is training for an interesting life. It’s also life in and of itself; it’s not life on hold. It’s life right now, all its chaos, all its maddening curiosities.

Here’s the song that reminded me that God’s there. He’s in the chaos. He’s in the next step, and I’m on my way there.