Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, I take my son to preschool. It’s a zippy little drive, only two stoplights. Most mornings, we’re there in five minutes. It’s glorious.
The drive home is a different story.
You see, there is an intersection on the way home where I need to make a left turn. I am not fearful of left turns in general. But because of the way this one is angled, I cannot see a blessed thing. I squint, I lean way over, I inch my vehicle as far as I dare. It doesn’t matter. Each time I turn, I feel like I’m just guessing another vehicle won’t slam into me. It makes me wildly uncomfortable.
I wondered if it was just me. I mean, there are other vehicles in front of me, sailing through. Hundreds more over the course of the day. Are they all panicked? Can they see something I can’t? Is there something so wrong with me that I can’t make the darn turn with my wits about me?
I have no idea.
Eventually, I got fed up seeing my life flash before me six times a week. So I started turning left a few blocks past the intersection. It has miles more visibility, and my blood pressure stays decidedly in the medically recommended range.
Despite how much better I feel, I’m embarrassed to confess this. Because taking a new route isn’t logical. It takes me closer to ten minutes to get home, instead of five. The other intersection is perfectly functional, people use it without incident every day. Sometimes when I’m driving through, I feel a little prick of shame that I can’t just make the turn like everyone else. It’s a perfectly great turn. Who am I to reject it to take a longer path? Just because I’m not comfortable? Get over it, Woman!
This annoying intersection is so very reflective of the path my faith has taken over the past year. I’ve spent my life taking the spiritual route I was supposed to take. The way that was logical. Time-efficient. Everywhere I looked, hundreds were right beside me, doing the same thing, all looking settled and reverent and holy.
The problem with that route was I did not look reverent or holy. I was deeply unsettled at times. I shifted in my seat and tried hard to appear serene. And happy. Of course, looking happy was the most important thing. But my insides were churning, my heart was racing, and the knot in the pit of my stomach tightened to a point where breathing felt like a luxury. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I felt so alone with the people I was supposed to be traveling with.
Eventually, I got the guts up to try a different route. I entered a bit of a spiritual wilderness. There was nothing linear or practical about it, but my heart breathed clear and easy that day. I had no plan, and I felt embarrassed for abandoning the right way for gut and heart and big feelings. But I felt so free, I didn’t care.
I thought I had to keep making that same left turn, doing what made sense on paper, what everyone else was doing, to have a strong faith, a meaningful faith. But I no longer believe that. I no longer feel like I am less than for taking the long way; for tuning into my sweaty palms and aching heart. For taking the time and space to ponder and ask myself hard questions.
Our theme this month—Pause—embodies my spiritual journey this year. I didn’t press pause on God or prayer or worship. What I did press pause on was everything that interfered with the way I experienced God and prayer and worship. I pressed pause on expectation and on obligation, on guilt and the right way to do things. I’ve leaned in to listening, to being still, to singing loudly and to crying without a hint of shame. I leaned in to long drives and talking to God while I drove. To searching for answers and clarity, instead of waiting for someone to do it for me.
From the outside, I might look like I’m far from where I should be. And while I’m far from where I used to be, I am neither uncertain or lost, floundering or confused. I’m just taking the long way. Not everyone does. But it’s been the best decision for me, for my relationship with God and, of course, for my blood pressure.