Learning to Walk the Path
"The abiding reality is God, and His order comes through the moments. Am I always in contact with Reality, or do I only pray when things have gone wrong, when there is a disturbance in the moments of my life?"
―Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
"Writing is prayer.”
― Franz Kafka
I write too often like I’m a missionary to unreached lands within myself.
It could be a question or an idea I want to know more about. I set out like a young chaplain, taking my inexhaustible, miraculous word-saber to the still-heathen outposts.
I don't think this is bad. And I need the help. But as I’ve become able to write more, there are times I'm less missionary and more recipient. Less seeking something and more wanting simply to be with the words for a while.
Not so much shaping as being shaped.
I think this is like walking somewhat aimlessly instead of quickly, with purpose.
When I was a lifeguard in high school, I had to encourage walking a lot. Most of the time no one could hear me because I was too afraid of people (yep, even kids), so I'd get to use the whistle. Thank God I never had to save anyone. (How terrifying that would have been, all those people staring. Can you imagine? What was I thinking? Probably that I'd never actually have to save anyone, which I didn't.)
But it's good, walking. You see more. And I think some thoughts won't come except at a less impassioned pace.
Yes, it feels less fun at first. And risky—Will it sound boring? Don't I need an end goal? After all, "If you don't plan to get nowhere, that’s about where you’re likely to end up."
But what if the arguments are serving to justify whatever it is you're running from?
Fear is smoke. Open the door and it dissipates. What particular outcome are you looking for exactly? If you try writing like merely setting out for a walk, you may find that whatever significance you’re looking for will still surface whether you aim for it or not.
And it's the not trying at it that has me so excited these days. It turns out it's amazing fun.
If you need more encouragement, consider the Tortoise and the Hare. Or the Sword In the Stone. Literature's full of heroes who don't have to try so hard to succeed--the slower, simpler, quieter ones--the ones making less of a disturbance.
Pursuing the higher purpose—the work of redemption in the world--is good and right. But our good, right desires can get tangled up by our passion. It may be possible to not want to be special and artful and heard. But even selfless ideals can get in the way. And sometimes I think it’s near-impossible to discard this purposefulness in order to write what is behind all that wants to push out stillness.
Sometimes we need to discard this notion of trying to do anything.
For some, I think it could be defeating to think this way when setting out to write. Think of it as freewriting, if you like. Only, the input you're responding to is coming more from outside you.”
When we don’t fight to control what comes, what input we're given, God can take control. What if I gave him my pen and didn’t try to use it for whatever I’m looking for, as sacrificial and even spiritually enriching as those ambitions might be?
Do you want to express the secret words, the ones that convinced you to take this less-traveled path?
Others may fight for position. Ours is handed to us daily. It’s the one beneath the world.
Who knows this occupation we pursue?
We won’t get to share all the secrets or discoveries along the way, though we'll often wish we could. And it’d be easier if others cared about us losing our lives as much as we did, but it’s enough to know that if they knew as well what losing ourselves meant, they would. Just as we will come to know how important it is for them to lose themselves.
Commit to the long path. Somehow, it’s ours, together.
He made all things on this path for us to enjoy. Through tears and joys, we share it and we live for the greater beyond us all. That connection with the ineffable we all somehow know.
Perfect love exists. And there’s nothing to be done about it but walk the path in celebration of its light.
Should art do anything?
Our society, friends, and even the pragmatic church wants to believe we can conquer spiritual matters with activity. With doing. No such idea was ever conceived by God. The external life does require activity. The internal requires the opposite. The spiritual world runs on stillness. The body is passing, but the spirit is eternal. Truth, goodness, and beauty--these things simply are.
And they will never change.
Why give up trying to achieve anything when we set out to write?
What chance do we have of discovering anything of true significance if we don’t?
Jesus the Christ,
you refused to turn stones into bread.
Save us from using our power,
to satisfy the demands of selfishness,
in the face of the greater needs of others.
Jesus the Christ,
you refused to leap from the temple top.
Save us from displaying our skills,
to win instant popularity,
in the face of nobler calls on our abilities.
Jesus the Christ,
You refused to bend the knee to a false god.
Save us from offering our devotion,
to cheap or easy religion,
in the face of the harder path,
on which you bid us to follow you.
Jesus the Christ,
Give us the wisdom to discern evil,
and in the face of all that is deceptively attractive,
help us to choose the will of God.
- The Book of Common Order