When I told her I lost my job, I was sobbing in the grass at a park in Mississippi. “Redefine this whole thing,” she said. “Your future isn’t scary, IT’S WIDE FUCKING OPEN.”
And when I was driving for 100 years through South Dakota, when I was certain I’d never get home, she said, “You are strong. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Breathe.”
And these are the things that I hold on to now. My path isn’t straight. My head and heart are just as tangled. But I grasp at those words and I hold on. I use them to buoy me, to keep my head above water.
I feel like I’m treading water and I’m tired. I am scrambling with my feet and toes, reaching down as deep as I can, trying to find the ocean floor. But I can’t find it. All that’s below me is water. And I’m tired. I don’t know if I can stay afloat.
But those words.
“Don’t be afraid.”
It’s hard to find someone willing to walk a crooked and tangled path with you, especially when they are able to see a path that is straighter and more direct.
It’s hard to find someone to take your hand and say, “This isn’t the path I would’ve chosen, and I’m not sure it’s necessarily even the best or most logical one, but I’m here for you, every step of the way.”
It’s hard to find someone who is willing to set aside their own view of life–their various “should’s”–and make room to respect this path you’ve chosen, (or the path that’s chosen you), even if they don’t understand.
It’s hard to find someone who can simultaneously not understand and still have respect for you, rather than slap a label on you that boils down to “defective” or “wrong.”
And what I’ve found over the last few weeks is that, while there might not be anyone willing to grab tight to my hand and journey with me through the mess and muck, the mystery and the marvel, there are people who pop in along the path, offering words I need to hear, hugs I need to receive, the willingness to continue answering their phone when I call.
And, while I ache for a hand to hold, I’m willing to concede that maybe this is good. Maybe this is just the section of the path I’m walking- a section designed to force me to learn that people can’t save me, that they’ll always let me down, and that my salvation is up God and I alone.
And how do you learn that lesson without growing bitter? How do you realize that there’s no one willing to hold your hand without feeling alone? I don’t know.
It’s lonely, and it hurts, and every single second I have to choose whether to continue to love people, or whether to push them and their negative opinions of me away.
And that’s where my crooked path diverges, over and over again. “Are you going to keep your heart open? Are you going to choose hope and life?” it asks.
And I’m angry, and I feel misunderstood, and everything is so tangled already that it’s hard to figure out what is real, where I rank with the ones I love. What’s safe and secure and stable.
But that’s not the question being posed to me in those moments. The question isn’t: “What’s real?” The question is: “How are you going to choose to posture your heart?”
And always, always I want to choose a heart that’s open to the life before me, and a heart that’s on its knees in surrender to God. Come what may.
My path is crooked.
But my future is wide open.