Lately I feel like I’m standing in a dark fog. I’m surrounded by clouds and I can’t see much of anything. Sometimes I see shadows, but even then I don’t know if they are real or tricks the fog is playing on my soul. I feel like I might be anywhere. I might be in Scotland, standing on the edge of a cliff looking down at crashing waves and a beautiful castle. I might be in my childhood backyard, wrapped up a sudden storm that will disappear like my breath does when I exhale. I might be on a mountain or in a valley. I might be by the sea or in a forest or in my own home.
When I stand in this place, all I know is that the ground under me is solid. I also know, I suppose, what the past was, whether good or bad or hideous or beautiful or right or wrong, but I can’t do anything with that. I can’t change it and I can’t go back, because I don’t know how to find it again. So all I have is the peace and fear of the present moment.
Sometimes, I just start walking. I figure, “What the heck?” and decide that walking off the edge of a cliff is just a chance I have to take because I can’t stay stuck forever. I decide that I must walk and that I will just choose a different direction if this one gets too hard or shows itself to be wrong. I tell God that I am going and that he can steer me somewhere else if he so chooses, but he’ll have to tell me loud and clear.
Other times, I just stand there. I don’t do anything. I strain my eyes to see but stay, as if my feet were glued to that patch of ground, because I can’t know for sure. I feel like I must know, absolutely, where I am going before I take that step. I don’t want to waste my time back-tracking and I certainly don’t want to walk into something dangerous, so I figure that I won’t move at all. I tell God that I’m staying and waiting for him, that I’ll stay forever if that’s how long it takes for him to tell me what comes next.
Both of these ways have worked for me. They seem to balance each other out so I’m not completely impulsive or completely stuck. I’ve developed good discernment as to which one is more appropriate for where I am at any given moment, and I think I’ve done a good job at taking advantage of opportunities offered me without rushing headlong into things before I know what they’re really about.
All the same, I’m beginning to find another way.
The other day, the fog seemed particularly close in. I couldn’t see a thing. I couldn’t remember why I believed in God or why I ever thought I should let someone else have control of my life. I couldn’t figure out why some hard things were so hard, especially when they were things that used to be easy. I felt particularly twisted up inside, like maybe I was standing on my head and didn’t know it.
In the middle of all of that, I reached out my hands in front of me like I was waiting for someone to grab me and lead me away from that place. I don’t know why I reached out—it was an impulse. Maybe I wanted to see if someone was there. Maybe I was testing the waters. Whatever the reason, I felt like my hands were taken up, like Jesus was there, just beyond what I could see, waiting for me to find his hands and let him find our way.
I think that was supposed to be comforting, but I found it frustrating. Why wouldn’t he just reveal himself? Wouldn’t it be easier if I could see with him, if we could both survey the view, whatever it is, and walk through it together? What was he about, just standing there lurking until I reached for him? How was I supposed to know that he wasn’t going to try to lead me places I didn’t want to go, places I’d tried before that were hard or places I hadn’t yet stumbled on? Whatever the answer to these, it didn’t feel like anything I wanted to mess with. Better to stand and rot or walk on and risk than let someone else—even him!—lead.
The story doesn’t have a happy ending or, at least, it doesn’t yet. Part of me wants to go, walk, and trust. Another part of me screams, “Hell NO!” and refuses to budge until she gets some token of where we’re going. And Jesus? He is very quiet. I feel his pressure on my hands, letting me know that he is still there, but that is all.
So where do I go from here? Do I force myself to go with him, against the part of me that seems right now to be my better judgment? Do I snatch my hands away and keep choosing based on my old patterns—the ones that have seemed to work fairly well? Do I wait until I’ve come to a point where I want to walk, where it doesn’t matter to me if I ever see his face because I know his heart and his love, where I truly see that wherever he chooses to lead is good, even if it’s hard?
In my perfect world, I’d choose the third. But does it exist? Is there a time and place on this earth where my heart is united, my passions are quieted, and my trust is solid? And if there is, is there a way to get there that does not involve me going with him right now?
Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.