A Prayer in a Season of Wandering
Tolkein’s famous line from the Lord of the Rings comes often to my mind these days.
Not all those who wander are lost.
I know that’s true because I am not lost, but I am definitely wandering the earth.
I left one place but have not arrived at another.
I am uncertain, unbranded, undone.
I am between.
I am surprised to find the stump of my clerical amputation still aches and itches after nine months. Wounds like this take time to heal, I guess. Who knew?
My old blog, Real Live Preacher, is just as I left it. My last entry is gathering goodbye comments like dust on the stove in Shakleford’s cabin. I know I will write again. I don’t know how or where or in what voice.
I am between callings. My last paycheck from Covenant Baptist Church came and was spent months ago. For now I do freelance work. I think I’m heading for a job as a Drupal architect and corporate social media specialist. It seems such a sterile thing to be after handling the scriptures and the elements and loving children for a living. I work by day at my trade like a cobbler at his bench. When I get paid for my work it feels righteous to me.
I am almost fifty, entering the strange years between youth and old age. I was a handsome young man with a full head of hair and an athletic build. It’s strange to see my gray and thinning hair in the mirror. The strong lines of my face have given way to wrinkles and sags. Mother nature, severe pragmatist that she is, has finished with me. I passed on my genes like a good boy. Now I’m supposed to quietly take my place in the ranks of middle aged persons, who are seen as somewhat amusing and asexual by the younger generations.
On Tuesday I walked out of a building in the middle of the day and it all hit me at once. My world is not the same. I experienced a moment of spiritual vertigo. The bright sunlight reflecting off the concrete felt wrong, like it does when you come out of a movie theater in the middle of the day. The parking lot didn’t feel right either. Somehow I couldn’t reconcile myself to the idea that there are still parking lots in this uncertain world. People just parking their cars here and there, like nothing is going on.
In that moment I saw a uniformed maintenance man trudging along, pushing a cart of trash toward a dumpster. I stared at him, powerfully moved by his calming presence. A simple man doing a simple task in this complex world. Amazing. Astounding. Wondrous. Hail maintenance man, full of grace. Blessed art thou and blessed is the fruit of thy labors. I had an impulse to run over and tell him I loved him.
Of course I didn’t, which is so me and was probably also the right decision.
I am between.
I am uncertain.
I am wandering the earth.
And I am happy. Happy in the deep places, in my joints and in my gut and marrow. On a good day I can touch the belt of Orion. On my best days I know there is God.
I am soft and wise and patient and slow and waiting and watching. I am stooping and smiling and tapping little creatures into my palm and walking in the wild woods. My faith is deep and broad and well-buried, like the limestone bed under South Texas. I know who I am and whose I am, though my creed has shrunk to three words and I don’t have as much to say about it as I once did from the pulpit.
I am here Lord, waiting and aging beneath the Mountain Laurel, among the Live Oak and the Chili Pequin. I am with Brother Armadillo and Sister Cactus.
I am yours. Make of me whatever you will.
Photo by Jessica McGuire. Used with permission.