Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Getting lost on the way home

One hundred, seventy-eight miles after I tiptoed out to my car at 6:45 a.m, my GPS remained firmly convinced that I still had not left the driveway of number 3 Half Mile Road.  Instead, it kept insisting that I turn left on Mansfield Avenue, while steadily increasing the estimated arrival time to my destination.  No amount of turning it off, re-booting, re-entering the destination address, and (the all-purpose technical fix) tapping on it, could change its stubborn electronic mind.  It simply could not guide me where I wanted to go.

So, that early Sunday morning, I had to rely on memory, instinct, and the pull of "home", as I simply drove north on the Merritt Parkway,  missed an exit in a moment of doubting my directional instinct, doubled back, and continued driving, until I was hunting for parking at my destination, only slightly late for the 10:00 service, but still in time for what I had driven 3 hours to experience.  Somehow that "follow your nose" (or "follow your heart") sense had gotten me where I was going, in time to hear a brand-new piece of choral music, written by a dear friend, and performed for the very first time that morning. No, it wasn't "home" in the sense of "the place where I live" or even "the place where I grew up", but home, in the sense that in that place, my heart is at rest, safe. The older I get, the less the geography of home has to do with geography on a map, and the more it has to do with the presence of love: the inexplicable love of God and of those who have decided (equally inexplicably) to love me.

Throughout my recent trip to the East coast, it seemed like my GPS kept failing to give me adequate directions about where to go because it couldn't accept the fact of where it was (like when it failed to recognize the Whitestone Bridge on the way to Brooklyn, or the above story about remaining stuck in a driveway in Darien, CT).  Without that clear acceptance of where I was, I couldn't rely on it to tell me what came next.  In those moments, I had to trust local folks for directions (including politely asking some saggy-trousered gangsta type standing under the elevated train in the Bronx how to find Rosedale Avenue, or having an animated conversation with a busy mom in Whole Foods in Winchester), and listen to that voice that was guiding me "homeward" for that day.

Those of you who know me in real life know where I'm going with this: yup, it's a metaphor for my life these days.  I am on a journey toward a new life, and there are some places that I think I want to go (like possibly back to school, briefly), and some dreams I have, and I have very little in terms of a reliable set of directions on exactly how to get there.  The best I can do is accept where I am, and keep moving, occasionally asking the locals (my tribe of friends and generous churchfolk who keep making themselves available) for help and information, and listening close for that voice that draws me homeward.

The piece of brand-new music that I heard that Sunday morning was an original choral setting of the George Matheson hymn, "O love that will not let me go".  In case you haven't got that hymn text memorized, here are the three verses that my friend chose to set, so you can carry it around in your head, like I've been carrying it around in mine.

O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.

O joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to thee.
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And find the promise is not vain that morn shall tearless be. 

O cross that liftest up my head, I dare not ask to fly from thee.

I lay in dust life's glory dead, 
And from the ground there blossoms red, Life that shall endless be.

Lately, caring people often will tell me to "hang on" through this season of grieving and re-claiming my life, but by the end of some days (and at the beginning of others) I find I've run out of strength in my grip.

It's helpful to think there is a Love that will not let me go.

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