Think about a time when you were lost – physically, metaphorically, whatever. What happened? Who were the key players involved? What was that like? What emotions does that bring up for you?
When I was a little kid, my grandparents lived on 14 ½ acres. A large portion of that was wooded area. Big, tall trees. The kind where you can’t see the top, even on the sunniest days. We spent every Friday night up there when we lived in the same area. They had a farm and a HUGE yard. My cousins lived on the lot right next door and they had four wheelers, dirt bikes, etc. My cousins were tough ass girls. We would ride the four wheelers and dirt bikes up into the woods and we would go off trail and play there. One time we were playing around and the next thing I know, I am by myself. They left me. Ran off and left me.
First, I yelled for them to come back and kept yelling. Then, I heard the four wheelers leaving. They had literally left me in the woods and I wasn’t a big kid. I was probably in the 3rd grade. They didn’t come back. At first I waited for them. Then, after awhile I started to get scared. I wasn’t quite sure how far off the trail we had walked and I didn’t really have my bearings, so I started to panic. I kept saying, out loud, “They’ll come back. Ok. They’ll come back.” But they didn’t.
It felt like hours and I could swear it was getting darker. I sat down on a log because I grew up camping with my parents who always taught us to stay put if we ever got lost and they would find us. So that’s what I did. I sat down. But my parents didn’t come and it really did start to get dark and I didn’t have a flashlight or anything. My heart started beating faster as I started to panic and every little noise scared me. I started to go into “Fight or Flight” mode and was thinking about how I could set up camp and wait or how I could make a fort, or whatever. I was in the 3rd grade, so obviously, my little brain was going bananas about being lost in the woods forever and becoming my own version of Mowgli.
Then, I hear, “Crissy!? Crissy!!” my parents. They were calling for me. I started yelling back, “I’m here! I’m here!” and started moving toward their voices and started crying. I was so relieved to hear their call.
I wasn’t that far off from the trail at all. Had I just taken a moment to see where I was, I could have made my way back to the trail and down to my grandparents’ house. To this day, I get really scared of getting lost. I have a terrible sense of direction…to the point where I don’t even trust Siri. “Turn right in 302 feet.” “Yeah, right, bitch. You’re not going to get the best of me!”
In the military they talk about walking “klicks” (1000 meters, .62 miles) and when people go just two klicks off from the path they are supposed to be on and don’t realize it, pretty soon, two klicks turns into miles and miles and they are way off their path. That’s when life becomes about survival.
This happens to us. Something happens or a series of somethings happen and we go off trail. Just a couple klicks from where we should be and even though we may have a sense we aren’t on the path or we fully know we are not on the path, we panic and instead of turning around and walking back to where we started, there, in the wilderness, we set up camp and start surviving. Which is ok, I mean, when you’re lost or in the wild, there are things you need to do to make it through the night or week or whatever. We learn so many survival tactics that we believe the only way to live is surviving. We get used to it. We isolate. We become jumpy and wary of every little noise. We do everything to survive and surviving is all we do. Quick to wield our weapons in case what’s out there is going to get us. It becomes our way of life.
Where do you feel lost? (Write it down)
What are your survival techniques? (Write them down – could be food, alcohol, isolation – those are the easy ones to identify, but what about the things that keep you “alive” but only to survive. Like, if you are always in a financial crunch and so you always go to the payday loans place? Or if you can’t be happy for others that are happy so you constantly find fault in them out of your jealousy?)
How was that?
It’s hard to look at those things, because they become our way of life – our saviors. Our comfort.
How do we get back on the path of freedom and appropriate fearlessness?
We need to set down our weapons and breathe. Let our heart rates settle down for a minute. Look around. Get our bearings back. Remember we are human beings, designed for thriving. Figure out a way to retrace our steps that took us out to the wilderness until we find our paths again.
When was the last time you really knew where you were? Write that down.
What is clear in your life right now? Write that down.
What is unclear? Write it down.
What do you need next to pack up camp and start the trek back to your trail? Write it down.
What were your findings? Any surprises? Anything you thought, “Oh yeah, duh. Of course.” A lot of times, we know these things, but getting them down on paper is important. I would even encourage you to talk about these things with someone you trust.
“Quiet down, far-flung ocean islands. Listen! Sit down and rest, everyone. Recover your strength. Gather around me. Say what’s on your heart. Together let’s decide what’s right.
2-3 “Who got things rolling here, got this champion from the east on the move? Who recruited him for this job, then rounded up and corralled the nations so he could run roughshod over kings? He’s off and running, pulverizing nations into dust, leaving only stubble and chaff in his wake. He chases them and comes through unscathed, his feet scarcely touching the path.
4 “Who did this? Who made it happen? Who always gets things started? I did. God. I’m first on the scene. I’m also the last to leave.
5-7 “Far-flung ocean islands see it and panic. The ends of the earth are shaken. Fearfully they huddle together. They try to help each other out, making up stories in the dark. The godmakers in the workshops go into overtime production, crafting new models of no-gods, Urging one another on—‘Good job!’ ‘Great design!’— pounding in nails at the base so that the things won’t tip over.
8-10 “But you, Israel, are my servant. You’re Jacob, my first choice, descendants of my good friend Abraham. I pulled you in from all over the world, called you in from every dark corner of the earth, Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side. I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’ Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
We need to sit down and rest, but we don’t have to set up camp. We need to recover our strength. What does that look like for you?
What is your “overtime production” giving you false hope? That keeps urging you to stay in the wilderness because “it’s going to be ok”…”you’re surviving…this is how you survive…” and it’s bullshit. Those things are the things that are keeping us from walking with God. What is the “shelter” you have to keep nailing down so it doesn’t fall over? It’s like a shitty tent on a windy day…it makes camping horrible!
Consider for a moment that God is bigger than the camp we’ve set up and the fear that keeps us there.
Consider for a moment that God is interested.
That the foundation of those considerations is a lot more solid than the thing that falls over.
Take a few breaths. Think about where you are in relationship to your path. Begin taking in the topography of where you are, look around you. Look to the left. The right. In front of you. Behind. What do you see?
Write down everything you see, on the top right of your paper.
Now, in the middle of your paper, write an arrow pointing North and “you are here”.
Ask God right now, “Where is my path in accordance to where I currently am?” You may not be able to see it. You may not be able to find it, but God will give you a beginning direction. Where is it in correlation to your True North?
Imagine you are holding a compass. Look at the compass in your hand. Now orient yourself to North. Look around you. Now, begin walking there. It may take days. It might just take hours, but as you walk, begin looking around you.
What’s changing about the topography? Write it down. What landmarks do you see? Map them out on your piece of paper. Ask yourself, “Is this the route I want to go?” “Is this the route that is right for me?”
Write down a prayer for what it might look like to start walking in that direction.
What are the elements you need to do today to start walking in that direction?
God says, “I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.” Hear God’s voice calling to you. “Together, we will decide what’s right.” God wants to do this together, with you.
Consider this truth and how it might empower you to leave camp and keep walking back to where you belong.
Love you guys.
*Painting credit: Portland artist, Abraham Burns