Have I ever mentioned what is likely to send me into a panic?
I rail against the unknown.
Yet as a person of faith, I live in the unknowable every day.
It seems to be the unknown aspects of the material world that make me feel most uncomfortable, and I believe it’s because I like to do things well and cannot predict the possibility of doing things well when I cannot perceive the parameters.
When Pure Luck and I met, I had been a faithful exerciser for a couple of years, and when he invited me to go hiking the following spring, I imagined myself to be ready. Surely 45 minutes on a treadmill three times a week added up to preparation, didn’t it?
But he warned me that hiking could not be approximated in a gym.
(This was back in the day before he had used a stair machine.)
Our first hike took us to a 2000-footer, not much of a challenge to him. I’m not sure how long it had been since I walked uphill for much more than a block, and we hadn’t gone far before I realized I had gotten into something so unfamiliar that it set off my internal alarm system.
"I can’t do this! I can’t do this!" Those were the words of the voice in my head. If I didn’t say them out loud, it was likely because I couldn’t speak!!! I still had no concept of what the elevation gain would mean, but I knew almost immediately that I had undertaken a challenge beyond my expectations.
We hiked and hiked and hiked and hiked, and it got to be lunchtime, and I needed to stop more often than Pure Luck would have liked, since he wouldn’t have stopped at all on such a little mountain. We reached stretches covered with small rocks, and I wondered how I would keep my footing? We reached height that I felt sure must be near the top, and I asked, "How much further?"
I’m not sure what measurement of a mountain would have meant anything to me. I had no concept of how feet of vertical gain compared to minutes/hours needed to achieve the summit. A quarter of a mile uphill would have meant little, since I had no experience with my own feet.
Pure Luck said, over and over, "We’re almost there."
Yesterday we celebrated the life of a church member who saw his journey toward death as a climb toward an unknown but inevitable destination. I’m not sure if I put that idea in his mind or if he put it in mine, but it formed the core of a prayer we shared soon after he came home to die. At that moment, we thought days remained, but as it turned out, he survived for eight weeks, sitting somewhere near the top of God’s holy mountain, cared for by his loving family.
I suppose there are people who can see their paths clearly and who follow them without question, and find nothing surprising along the way. They seem to have it all together, to have everything under control.
I feel a little sorry for them.
Oh, I know it’s easier when I return to a familiar trail. I can pace myself in a way that isn’t possible when you really have no idea what else you might need to climb or for that matter survive!
But some of the richest moments and the most satisfying relationships in my life have been found on the unfamiliar paths, at the times when through choice or circumstance I found myself in the midst of the unknown.
Maybe this is the day I’ll embrace it willingly instead of anxiously frittering away possibilities for joy.