Monday, January 19, 2009

Nowhere But Here

"We like to think we achieve.  We want to know we have 'arrived'.  But the self is work in progress.  It is the spiritual fashioning of a soul.  And souls grow slowly.  We spend life becoming ready to be human beings worthy of life."  - Joan D. Chittister in Called to Question.

I have been in a constant state of arrival for most of my adult life.    The restlessness to leave started early, I hadn't even reached the second grade before I was ready to go.  Where didn't matter, anywhere other than where I was at the moment was good enough, that is until I learned what anywhere looked like.  

In the old farm house I called home there was a window by the front door.  A blue antique loveseat was placed conveniently in front of this large window.  I would sit on old blue and stare out the window on rainy days, which came to the southern Oregon coast as often as the sun shines in Florida.  I longed to walk out the door, step off the front porch, and disappear down the driveway.  I would have runaway if not for the douglass fir trees stationed like colossal sentinals along our country road.  They looked like trees during the day, but at night they came alive.  Shadows of giants with heavy arms waved warning - leave at your own risk.  I wasn't brave enough to take that risk until I was 15.   I have been leaving ever since.

Departure is easier that arriving, especially when the destination is anywhere - a place always unexpected and so exciting at first.  Everything is new, the people and places strange but familiar.  It is the familiarity that should have given me my first clue as to the limiting nature of anywhere.   Bandon, Portland, Eugene, Oregon.  Richmond, Oakland, San Diego, Los Angeles California.  Ithaca, New York.  Gainesville, Florida.  All places I have lived, some by conscious choice, others simply as a result of having no where else to go.  About four years ago I came to realize what it was that kept me moving every three years or so.  No matter what city or town I left, wherever I went I simply found more of the same - suffering, hunger, need.  But the familiarity was not in the location, it was within me.  I could be in Florencia, Cuba and still - there I am.  My surroundings may have changed, but without inner transformation, I would never arrive anywhere.  

I have grown with each move, though that growth is difficult to measure.  Depending what I am measured against, I could be a highly educated and skilled professional in education, or I could be the iconclast outcast who refuses to conform to societal norms.  The tool to determine where I fit between the two is based on societal rules, not one I choose to use, for neither label fits, nor does either amount to much on its own.  I suppose my refusal to use the world's tools for measurement inherently pushes me into the marginal space, a place that is like anywhere - nowhere but here.  I am comforted, however, in knowing that it is here where Christ took his stand.

As I prepare to make my next move, I enter the leaving differently.  I am fully aware of what anywhere looks like and still I'm prepared to step off the porch.  My confidence comes from what is growing inside, partially grown from my perpetual come and go pattern in life, but that is only the rain the comes and goes like the tide.  It quenches my thirst, but eventually the soil dries.  Continued growth requires the magic found in the mystery of God, the call to abide in Christ a spell that defies the laws of any place in time.   The mere promise of peace that comes from the King of Kings shines light on my "work in progess."  The seed of what is growing is my soul, and her longing within me is God gently beckoning, the passion that drives me to keep leaving so I can continue to arrive.  Where?  Anywhere there is a risk.  Anwhere there is suffering.  Anywhere there is spiritual hunger and need.  My step is no longer timid, uncertain. It is an intentional leap.   If I achieve anything, it will be responding to God's will, living a life worthy of his calling, from here to nowhere.

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