October 24, 2010

God when we Get Lost

Last week we looked at interrupted routines. Routines are like predictable paths. In fact, often they ARE predictable paths. I don’t know about you, but I usually take the same route to and from work every day. I know pretty well how to time the lights along the route so I don’t have to stop. It’s the same with my daily habits. If I don’t have time to do my morning journaling or check the email before work, I feel out of kilter.

It’s amazing how early in life we fall into routines. This week we, my husband & I, babysat for our grandson while his mommy was in the hospital having his baby sister. He’s 4 and already has a set way of getting ready for bed. First he puts away toys, then gets into night clothes, then you have to read two stories, then he looks at books for a little while in his room before climbing into bed. You forget any step of that routine at your own peril. In the morning he has a series of steps that can’t be hurried, even if Grandma has to get to her own house before taking him to preschool and going to work! (He really is excited about his sister, I just caught him with an expression that says 'quit taking pictures'.)

Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that there is a spiritual discipline in getting off the regular paths and getting lost “because once you leave the cow path, the unpredictable territory is full of life.” She also says that when you get lost you have the opportunity to “take a good look around to see where you are and what this unexpected development might have to offer you.”

Getting lost doesn’t necessarily have to be taking a wrong turn. It might be “getting lost looking for love…between jobs…looking for God…” Getting lost can be an opportunity to “move through my own chattering to God to that place where I can be silent and listen to what God may have to say,” according to Madeline L’Engle.

In thinking about this week when I was ‘lost’ from my routine I thought that the opposite had happened. Because I was rushing to get everything done I didn’t think I had really taken time to pray. Then I realized that I DID find some ‘out of routine’ prayer times. God woke me up in the middle of the night for some intense prayer time! Driving to work (and feeling rushed) I found myself praying the Lord’s Prayer to calm and center myself! Keble, in his closing stanza, notes that our daily goal should be to ‘live more nearly as we pray.’

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love,
fit us for perfect rest above;
and help us, this and every day,
to live more nearly as we pray

Getting lost from our routines, or in the midst of the routines, might give us just the interruption needed to turn back to God. Along our routine paths, God can become routine. When we are lost, God is very near. ‘Getting lost’ on purpose—taking a different way home or stopping at a park can offer respite with God. When life sends you down a path you weren’t expecting and you feel lost or just out of kilter, you may discover new ways of talking to God.

Sometimes we end up really lost, like the Prodigal Son, even feeding pigs like in this BartolomĂ© Esteban Murillo painting. We are far from the normal, comfortable home we envisioned. When we hit bottom, we are indeed at the “Ground of Being.” Paul Tillich, a 20th century theologian, coined that phrase for God as the source of all being. Like the Prodigal Son, that is often when we ‘come to ourselves’ and say “Father I am not worthy to be called your son/daughter. Make me as one of your servants.” (Luke 15:11-32) The good news is that God welcomes us back as if we had never left!

Max Lucado (Cure for the Common Life) notes that “We need regular recalibrations…But who has time…? You have carpools to run; businesses to run; sales efforts to run; machines, organizations, and budgets to run. You gotta run…Christ repeatedly escaped the noise of the crowd in order to hear the voice of God. He resisted the undertow of the people by anchoring to the rock of his purpose: employing his uniqueness (to "preach to the other cities also") to make a big deal out of God ("the kingdom of God") everywhere he could.”

Getting lost may just be the recalibration you need. Look back over your life to see where you ‘got lost’ from the path you had plotted out for your life. Taylor says, “the practice of getting lost is both valuable and undervalued…in this culture [where] the point is to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible…doing at least five other things while you are in transit.” Think about where God was in the times you felt lost. If you find yourself ‘lost’ outside your routine this week—look for the Holy in the changed circumstances.

Next week we’ll look at how labeling one another is a way of keeping our norms and routines ‘secure’.

* Quotations from Walking on Water, L’Engle and An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor, unless otherwise noted.

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