AtP said this a few weeks ago. It made an impact on me, because sometimes I believe I think that walking the straight and narrow involves wearing blinders, trudging forward doggedly, looking down at the path, never really living. I make myself believe that it cannot include stopping to gasp at an incredibly gorgeous sunset, seeing the vivid fall colors contrast with the brightness of the sky, feeling the eyes-closed warmth of the sun as it seeps into my skin. I imagine it means not stopping to explore the people I meet along the way, ignoring the different ideas they present to me, being blind to the beautiful glimpses of their souls. And quite honestly, I find it impossible to keep myself from gazing, tasting, searching, and reveling in my surroundings and the people I find there. I find it impossible not to laugh--in joy, humor, mockery (sorry), pain, or sadness. I find truth in beauty, beauty in humanity, humanity in life. I'm like the child who has to look at every bug, smell every flower, pet every dog, and gaze at the clouds--and sometimes I talk incessantly while doing it. Straight and narrow....impossible.
One of the speakers at conference this weekend (I'm too lazy to go look it up), talked of how carefully manicured parks and landscapes are built over landfills. He related this to how Christ makes something beautiful out of the refuse in our own lives if we allow him to do so--and once the change has been made, we should continue to cultivate it rather than digging around for the trash we have lost. I wondered as he talked, how much of my "refuse" do I use to define who I am? Am I afraid to have something beautiful made of my life? I certainly have more than my share of trash--my own private landfill is very large. What will I lose if I give it up?
There's an underlying trust issue in each of the two ideas above. What do I give up if I travel the straight and narrow--and do I really have to give up anything? If I believe AtP's view, above my own, the path will allow me to find everything beautiful, and continue to connect with people I love. If I believe my own, there is no way I will ever stay on the path--too many wonderful distractions. But if I believe that the beauty of this earth and its inhabitants are the product of God, how can his way be anything less than delightful? His path will take me "everywhere..." What do I give up if I allow Christ to create purity amidst the filth I hold close? To make something lovely of all that I feel is ruined about myself? If I truly believe him, he can make me whole--he can make my life beautiful--he can take away my anguish--so why am I afraid?
For all my life I have been shaped by my experiences. I have fiercely vowed that I would not be overcome. I have stubbornly clung to life, even when it felt so painful that I did not believe I could endure one more day. With every ounce of my being I fought against the bitterness inside, trying desperately to love, refusing to become resentful, hateful, ugly. In a sense, the struggle to live in spite of everything, has been a core part of who I am. If I give up the fight and yield my pain to my Savior, who will I be? Why will I live? Will I disappear? Will those who love me continue to do so? Will I actually be able to find rest? Is there peace for me?
"Our life's journey is an ever-unfolding work of art that tells the story of where we have been and with whom we have traveled."--Iyanla Van Zant
I've been to places horrifying and painful. I've felt defiled, disrespected, hurt, and finally useless and broken. But I've been to places triumphant, loving, joyful--places where I was able to build up from the nothing I had become, a person I was willing to present to my fellowman. I have found value amidst the filth, and pushed it into the foreground. But ever present, hidden from the world was the knowledge that beneath all that I put forth, was the darkness of my mind, built from my past--the core of my being. Will Christ, who knows me so well, accept that? Work with that? Bring light into the sadness I hide in my soul? "Our life's journey is an ever-unfolding work of art that tells the story of where we have been..." There are times when I would like my "work of art" to tell the story, not of where I've been, but where I have gone, in spite of it.
I suppose, with interesting traveling companions, I'd stay on the straight and narrow indefinitely--perhaps forever. There are so many people in my life who help me as I try to believe in the worth of my own soul. They assure me it's there, and someday I must remove my blinders, that I may see it, myself. They tell me the blackness I feel is temporary. They bring light and joy, that I may find relief. They lead me to Christ--the one who will help me make the light and joy a permanent part of my life. The straight and narrow path, traveled with those whom I love, "will take [me] everywhere..." Perhaps, given their help, my life's story will leave the past behind, becoming beautiful as it ever-unfolds.