Between Two Worlds Day 19 (of 40)
Four years ago I took off on a slightly over-ambitious cycling pilgrimage around the West. I knew that I needed to do something to face the losses of my life. I had lost three women important to me in a short 30-month period. At the same time I was knew I was working myself out of a job as I was guiding a church through a closure/legacy process. But floating between my subconscious and my conscious mind I held out some hope that the pilgrimage would propel me into some new professional role–maybe as a writer, maybe as the foremost expert on congregational grief, or maybe as the catalyst for a new spiritual community. I had momentary fantasies of riding back into Portland with hundreds of people lining the streets ready for a spiritual revolution!
That didn’t happen. In fact, by the time I arrived in California after seven weeks of riding I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I could tell by my blog that, even though a great conversation was ignited, dozens of people weren’t lining up ready for me to return. But the big reality check was returning to speak at churches as I rode the last 800 miles of the pilgrimage. I had held out some naive hope that I would return and there would be a resurgence of energy to pick my brain and hear about my experiences. Instead I got back and discovered that the church was still the church. Over 3,000 miles of riding, conquering a number of major mountain passes, and crossing the desert in the heat of August hadn’t made even the slightest dent in the energy and future viability of the church.
The theme of this 40-day Lenten blog and conversation is “Between Two Worlds”. I have spent the better part of these past five years flirting between these two worlds. Much of my energy has been seeing if I can get across the bridge into the new world. But the reality has been that despite the ongoing erosion of the old world there is still more of a world left to forge a livelihood on than the new world where there is vision, but very little organization. Metaphorically, there are still more apples on the tree in the church than on the little saplings that are peeking through the ground on the other side of the bridge. The future is in the saplings, but the old trees still fill my hungry stomach.
Which brings me to today. Every morning I take 30-45 minutes to do some stream of consciousness writing that helps me to clear away the clutter in my head and listen to the voice and the wisdom of my soul. On Monday this wrestling match between these two worlds started to make sense to me–or at least I felt more comfortable with my place in it. I would love to be part of the building whatever this new world is supposed to be. But if I am honest with myself the reality is that I am too old and tired. I do believe that something new is being built, but that like the forty year fight for LGBT recognition, this too won’t emerge overnight. It will be one generation, maybe two, before anything that looks like a new model and structure will be recognizable.
With that growing realization my stream of consciousness writing brought me to the line, “My time will limited to simply being the explorer.” I will never be the builder, but someone has to be the explorer and the scout.
In fact that has been my story so far these past five years. Twice I have taken off on pilgrimage only to come back and re-settle back into church life and the pastorate for two and three years at a time. I wonder if this is supposed to be my story (and quite honestly the story of many of us in this time)–that we will spend the rest of our lives flirting between these two worlds. I wonder if our lives will be the great experiment of going out on expedition (whether to foreign places or into the inner worlds of our psyches and souls), exploring new worlds, bringing it back, telling our stories, and then going out, coming back, going out, coming back until we all have crossed the bridge together.
I shouldn’t be surprised that this is where I might be ending up. Two years ago as I dug deeply to name this new work and identity I was forming I came up with the tagline for my website, “Exploring the World, Discovering the Soul.” Even writing those words again feels refreshing.
We don’t have to be the builders right now. Maybe it is enough just to be explorers for awhile.
I leave you with this T.S. Eliot quote:
“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”