Last summer, before I set out to move from Grand Rapids to Seattle, my brother gave me a map of the United States. Because I was driving across country and because I had not made many long trips by car, I enjoyed the fact that the map allowed me to look ahead to my next destination and to recognize names and places I saw along the way. Knowing that I was making progress and was headed in the right direction gave me a sense of security.
All of that came to an end when I arrived in Seattle. I was so far from home and from all of the familiar things in my life. I felt lost. Finding a grocery store, figuring out how to negotiate big-city traffic, dealing with having to pay for parking, finding a church I had looked up on the Internet and getting lost two or three times on the way—all of these were challenging. Wandering around in a maze of the unknown, I was frustrated.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. This was not just a geographical journey; it was also a spiritual one. After years of trying to secure my life through external things—and failing—I decided to leave everything behind and step out into the wideness of God’s mercy. This was not an easy decision because of the risks involved, and it took many years for me to muster the courage to take the plunge.
The trouble was that this kind of journey had a very ambiguous map: something like, “Lose your life to find it.” OK—this was not looking good.
After months of trying to master my situation—to secure my boundaries, tie down my budget, land a job, silence the incessant voice of fear—I was spit up on the shore like Jonah. This did not mean the end of the struggle, but it did result in my gasping-for-breath agreement—sort of—to go along with a new and ambiguous plan—one I was still going to have trouble with.
Here’s what I heard with the help of author Jim Finley: “I, by my own powers, cannot force my way through into the mystery of the fulfillment that I long for. . . . What I can do is get vulnerable in the messy, intimate process of letting go so that what I am powerless to achieve can grant itself to me in my very powerlessness to achieve it. This is what makes it amazing grace.”
I can’t tie this story up by saying that I’ve been swept up into a seventh heaven. Instead I am here on earth, struggling with clinging, letting go, and clinging again. It’s a process. But at least I have a map, and I have a sense of my way home with an ounce of faith and the help of those who have gone before me.