"I live constantly with the awareness that there are no maps for what I am doing; that I am making the path as I go. Yet …even as I move across what seems like uncharted territory, there is a way that lies beneath the way that I am going. We are all creating the road as we go. Yet beneath this, undergirding this, is a path carved by those who have traveled here before us.”
In the church I serve, we have a Sunday morning worship leader who welcomes everyone at the start of the service. They give the necessary announcements, including telling the congregation that large print orders of service and assisted listening devices are available from the ushers. On the best Sundays, which don’t happen as often as I wish, the worship leader mistakenly says that assisted living devices are available from the ushers. I am always secretly rooting for this mistake because it makes everyone laugh. And because it would be so excellent if the ushers really had assisted living devices to give out. I would raise my hand for one every time. I know I’m not alone. A lot of us feel like our lives should have come with instructions. Or maybe they did, but we lost the only copy a long time ago.
Seven years ago, I left my marriage of over two decades. We had two young children at the time. During the day, I could mostly live with the weight of my decision but at night the voices of my fear and guilt were relentless. Had I chosen my own happiness over my children’s? Would this become a terrible turning point in their lives—the moment when they lost faith in stability, in promises made and kept? I prayed for operating instructions, for some sign we would all get through this. I let them have too much screen time as I juggled ministry and motherhood. I was raggedly determined, driving around in a borrowed truck to collect Craigslist furniture and writing sermons in the middle of the night.
A few months in, an older woman in the congregation visited me. “I left my marriage with young kids to raise,” she told me. “I still remember how tired I was. You need to let us help you.” I started to protest and she stopped me. “We know you are fine,” she said quietly, fiercely, kindly, “and you still need to let us help you.” Luckily, I realized this was the sign. Kindness offered from someone who has traveled our particular hard road before us is always the sign.
So I let them help me. Members of the congregation came with paint brushes and scrub brushes and donated pots and kitchen utensils, some of which looked suspiciously new. They put together my children’s beds and painted the walls of our new apartment. I was undone by their tenderness, and healed by it.
None of us have a map. We are all just making the way as we go. But we can help each other get through the painful places we know most intimately because we have lived in them. There really are assisted living devices and they are us. We have each other.
God of all tired travelers, help us reach for each other when the way gets hard.
Photo copyright Duncan McNeil/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0