It isn’t hard to lose your way. I’ll admit, it is rare for me to lose my way, or at least it was. I have always had a good sense of direction. I have done navigation with GPS and with map and compass. I have navigated underwater while scuba diving both with and without a compass. I have navigated with shadows and by the position of the sun as well.
With my vision loss, things have changed. When people ask me about how I’m doing, I often tell them each day is a new experience and I learn something new each day. This past weekend is a good example. I got an invite to help a friend dog training for upland bird hunting. I had a great time but I realized my head and eyes now naturally look down when I’m in unfamiliar terrain. This causes some challenges when birds get flushed when hunting. Most times I only caught sight of one bird not two (or more) because it flew to the side and I have no peripheral vision now.
As the sun was setting and shadows grew longer, I realized how easy it could be for me to lose my way. When your favorite place to be out is being way out, that is a sobering thought.
The thing is, there are adaptations I can make. Using other visual cues, always having a flashlight, using a trekking pole in uncertain terrain would all help. I have come to accept that solo hunting and hiking is likely a thing of the past too and this assures me there is a more reliable pair of eyes for me to lean on.
What happened to me physically though, also impacts me mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I am not so self absorbed that I think I have it worse than others. The onset of a disability, regardless of the degree it impacts a person, still changes your life. There are days when it is incredibly lonely. I feel isolated from peers, friends and family. I recognize when people don’t know what to say or how to respond. I have prayed and wondered. So for lack of better words, I have at times, lost my way.
I think this is what has struck me so much about the transition into Advent this year. For so many years, for so much of my life, I have thought about and prayed for what I wanted or what I thought God wanted. Whether it was a fresh wind or clear purpose, I walked a road where the lines were so clearly marked, you’d have to wonder how anyone could ever “turn to the right or the left” as the writer of Proverbs noted.
But when your dreams crumble and platitudes become bitter on your lips, it does not take long before you find yourself off the path of least resistance. It did not take long before I realized the path I found was not really a new path but an old one, one it seems had fallen into disrepair. If you hike much, you will know what it is like to find just such a path. Leaves cover the depression. Bare ground occasionally breaks through. Maybe a worn blaze marker on a tree. Whatever signs are found affirm that while this is the road less traveled, it is also the road meant for thee.
I found it first in a book of little acclaim in most circles of the Christian tribe, called Shattered Dreams. Then it was an article here and word of encouragement over to the side. I began to discover voices from the Church, long forgotten or were they just ignored? I’m not sure it even matters. I caught the sounds in the chants of the monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. In the broken bread and juice poured out I tasted the sweetness and the sweat of a severe mercy and a suffering grace. In the Jesus Prayer, I claimed a pattern of prayer that resonated with my soul.
And so with each step I have taken these many months, I have slowly tried to wear out this path, to follow the way wear my spirit can see even if my eyes might fail me. Sometimes we have to lose our way to find The Way. If that puts me out of step with some, then so be it. In all of this I have learned it best not to trust my own faculties for they will fail, of this I know. More than all the world, this year I claim the advent truth: Emmanuel – the promise that God is with us.