“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
A few years back I facilitated a book study where we used the late Dan Fogelberg’s Along the Road as our theme.
“Joy at the start
Fear in the journey,
Joy in the coming home.
A part of the heart
Gets lost in the learning
Somewhere along the road.
Along the road, your path may wander.
A pilgrim’s faith may fail.
Absence makes the heart grow stronger.
Darkness obscures the trail.
Cursing the quest,
Measureless nights forebode.
Moments of rest,
Glimpses of laughter
Are treasured along the road.
Along the road your steps may stumble,
Your thoughts may start to stray.
But through it all, a heart held humble
Levels and lights your way.”
What a beautiful portrait of life. For the class, I printed and drew many pictures of tree- lined pathways as visual aids. I had a group of high school kids do a drama presentation to get our minds focused. You’ve probably all heard the “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” dictum bandied about by a myriad of writers and poets? I believe these words and they have informed many major decisions in my life. I have also been accused of “over-thinking” and being “too sensitive” and “overly opinionated.” Whatever. I want my life to count, so I think about things.
At times though, I can get into trouble when I can’t turn the thoughts off. Some may call it anxiety or worry or a heaviness of heart. When the circumstances of life seem to pile up more than the average season, my thoughts will race; usually when trying to rest, of course. My mind gets filled with: problems I can’t solve, issues that only time will heal, conversations I will never have, concerns I will never voice, questions I can’t answer, relationships I can’t fix, topics I will never broach, and prayers I need to pray. So lately I have been recalling that song and the visual of life as a path. These days I call it, creating a space for “I Don’t Know.” As a Christian, my path always has Jesus holding my hand as I go. But this new imagery has us on a road that is completely empty. I take a minute to quiet myself and sweep the road ahead clean. It’s not a denial of what is there, it’s just a setting aside of the unanswered questions so I can rest! Everything is placed on the side of the road, waiting it’s turn. I am wondering, really, if this is how I’ve always wanted to live but let myself get choked by the practical concerns of the days? Maybe I chose certain answers to live by because of my inability or unwillingness to live in the, “I don’t know.” Circumstances have forced me to think about it. Several friends have asked me, “where do you see yourself a few years down the road?” My answer has been a silly joke or a more realistic, “I don’t know what I’m doing next week!” And strangely, I am okay with that. Just today, I had a blip on the road that confirmed for me that I really don’t know what a day will bring and as much as I want to lament not getting what I want, I’m doing ok. I didn’t immediately cuss, or feel too sad or scared, although I am a bit bruised.
So maybe this, “I don’t know” space is an okay place to be. Living under a true belief that I CAN’T know certain things, and being willing to live in that reality. I don’t mean turning into a complacent who does nothing. Or being apathetic. I will still think thoughts and make plans and dream dreams, but maybe they won’t weigh me down with over concern of the final destination. I will try to live and love with open hands and open heart, seeing reality not as a list to be accomplished but a joyful place with a bit of “come what may” posture.
“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson