Coming out of the Foodland parking lot I crossed paths with a young woman – maybe in her twenties, light red hair and that milky redhead complexion. She was deep in thought and oblivious to my approach. She lifted a cigarette to her mouth and pulled long and deep. It seemed strange – incongruous - to my eyes to see this fair young person sucking on a death stick.
What compulsion, I wondered, causes her to seek comfort in nicotine’s buzz? Why is she so stressed? What hunger in her gets fed by that oral fix? Why do the things that make me feel better also tend to make me sick?
These questions are on my mind this week. My window of retreat – the chance to escape into the lakes and woods – got slammed shut. (see last week’s blog) I was really hoping that I would find some resolve out there in the woods. I wanted to distill my sense of purpose and discover an inner discipline.
Of course, there are a thousand self-help tricks to get me into the right frame of mind. But aren’t they all based on the idea that I need to be fixed? That I have something wrong with me that needs changing?
If I am a lazy lug to begin with, then maybe it’s no wonder that it’s far easier to feed that self with buttertarts or nicotine or caffeine or too much TV or …. you fill in the blank…. than seeing that lazy lug walking a treadmill towards health. Now that’s incongruous.
But if each morning I sing a chorus of Amazing Grace and accept the redeeming power of Jesus Christ into my sorry soul, then I am a new creation. God and I are involved in a wonderful project co-creating a person, starting now, in the image of Christ using some amazing –if very raw- materials.
These two choices, two worldviews, two self-views we often talk about as living in two different worlds. Jesus spoke of the Kingdom that dwells among us. But even his greatest fan and spiritual aerobics teacher – the Apostle Paul - spoke of the feet of clay that dogged his efforts. (In between bragging sessions about his devotion.)
I dunno. Bob Marley sang “One World, One Love”. It’s not that there’s two different worlds – it’s just me that’s so changeable, so easily confused, self-absorbed, discouraged, and misdirected.
From where will this inner discipline come?
“Stupid question” I tell myself “It comes from within of course”.
The Spirit, under dark grey skies, shifts the wind so I notice... “It’s a gift. It comes and goes.”
So, sometimes I’m a mule. Stubborn and strong. Bred for work but needing a carrot at the end of stick – or a stick at my other end – to get me pulling. I’d never choose to work – choosing the paddock or barn first - but when I get hitched up – I do what I’m told. Problem is - I have many Masters.
Each morning, a wild horse comes for a visit – sometimes just into view, sometimes close enough to touch. I’m reminded of a purpose and a power that runs wild. I’m reminded of generations of Wild Horses that live free. Their purpose is wider and simpler than any bridle can turn them to. Their power is endlessly renewed.
When I catch sight of this wild reminder, I become thankful for every dirty job and every task becomes an honour to work at. I am still a mule, but the Master who rides me needs neither stick nor carrot. “My yoke is easy and my burden light.”
And every so often, that wild horse lets this heavy human climb onto its back. I grab a handful of mane and it takes me where it will. Very often we walk the same path as the mule. But as the rider, instead of the ridden, I get a higher, longer view.
I can see that my days are grass. That my life is a grain of sand in the ancient Abraham blessing. The pain and the struggles of today seem so temporary. I am free to just ride.
As if sensing this shift, the horse takes an unsuspected turn and trots off the path. It takes skill and effort to stay seated. It breaks into a gallop. Everything, every thought, every hope, every worry falls behind – and I just ride – eyes wide, ears full of wind, a whoop letting go from deep within.
It happens when I am very quiet. A wild horse must be met with calm. It happens when the barking dog that is my mind lies quiet and still. It happens when I slow into a Tai Chi pace of noticing everything and thinking of nothing – only trusting.
It happens when I share a belly laugh, or a tear, with another traveler’s news of the journey.
Now, that is addicting! That is something I want more of. That is worth working and searching and hungering for. It is the pearl of great value – that which I am in the process of selling everything to attain. Slowly, I am saving more and more of my time to spend where the wild horses dwell.
And if I could just get to that carrot at the end of that stick – I’d get there a whole lot faster.
By the way, David is doing much much better. He made it back to school this week. (I think the Get Well card from four girls in his class helped.) He’s taking his needles with a lion’s heart and living up to his nickname “Brave Dave”. His parents are having a much harder time getting used to the life sentence of Diabetes. We’ve been supported by God’s love with flesh on. Funny how crises make you notice the grain in the woodwork. God’s designing hand gets appreciated so much more when you’re looking for reasons, help & hope. Thanks.