|***photo credit Jennifer Upton|
I do not want to leave my seat on the wagon of philosophers and theologians, dreamers and thinkers, bridge-builders and pathfinders, but sometimes I feel the weight and wish we could all stop to rest. I know. Their worlds always keep spinning and whirling and talking and toiling. They can get on quite well without me. Without my words. My absence is not going to be noteworthy if I keep my silence for a time.
I start to let myself dream of drifting away. I do not let it all go on purpose at first. I close my eyes for just a moment and find myself slipping off. I find myself scrambling to catch the wagon. I find myself crawling, when I can no longer run after it. Scraping, grasping, dragging myself through the gravel. Reaching for that place of purpose that is now disappearing around the next corner even as I continue to labor toward it.
I cry. But I keep crawling. Because I want to be where that certain life is happening. I am too tired to catch up. The pebbles now make deep imprints into my palms and my knees. I am bent, but I am not broken, not yet, I assume. I can keep going a little while longer. Just another day. I know my body will soon demand a reckoning, but I inch my way into forward motion, because to stop will mean losing momentum.
If I stop, I might not ever get back up again. I might not reach the wagon train. I might not get my seat back.
Those pebbles are getting sharper. Once an irritation, their constant presence is now a violence to my thin and sensitive flesh. The pebbles begin to puncture. I feel the burning. When I was in my seat, I could protect myself with words. I could gather allies to defend my place. But I am alone now and my brain is in a fog. My participation in the caravan of conversation is now muted by the distance. The gap widens, the voices fade, the corner is fully turned and they are out of my sight. The sun is disappearing, too. I cry and realize this is what it means to be lost.
Lost inside my own imagination. Lost inside a projected perception of keeping up. Lost to anything resembling stability. The implosion is nigh. My hands and feet are telling me what disintegration feels like. I am not quickly and mercifully consumed as I might have hoped. No. It is a slow and caustic withering. I need some light. Oh, I need the light!
I am no longer simply crawling through gravel. The gravel is now in my mouth. The gravel is in my throat. It is in my belly. Scraping and clawing away at my soul. I look ahead for I can bear no longer to look down.
I look ahead, and I see the trail of a thick, wooden beam. I see the trail of One who carried the world on his back. I see the displaced dirt and gravel marking a clear trench- a path forward. I see and I realize, if I had not fallen behind, I would have missed it altogether. It’s not that it’s mistakable for anything else, but just that there are so many other directions to look, to walk, to see. I only see the ground because I am connected with the ground. Its face is my only pillow now. Its dust is my only food. And by now I know each pebble by name:
Hello, Worthlessness. I’d never forget about you.
Hey there, Sorrow, I am actually going to put you in my pocket. You remind me of something precious.
I look up again, at the trail of the wooden beam. The trail blazed by the Man of Sorrows, and I know. Deep in my being, beyond the pain of ingested sharp edges, my soul recognizes someone who is safe, because he knows my grief. Someone worth emulating. Someone worth the whole seemingly pointless journey around the blighted sphere. I push ahead with new energy. I am not crawling now, but stumbling toward the imprint of the cross. I reach the edge and step gently into the trench it has made. I lower myself down, and breathe, breathe, big gulps of air. I lie down, and though it is not comfortable, it is more restful than anything I have felt in a long time.
I do not know how long I rest. The shadows move across the horizon as the day begins to break. I do not feel exposed and I do not feel driven. My wounds are scabbing over and my insides have stopped gnawing. I think to myself, I am welcome. Welcome to stay for now, for as much time as I need. Welcome to travel along this deeper path. I watch another caravan rumble by. The earnest faces, engaged deep in conversation, with hands animating emphasis, they are lovely but they are not all free. Some are too deeply invested to see one another. All are too invested to notice any stragglers. None of them can see me.
I will wait here. I will rest and heal. I will watch out for stragglers and invite them to join me. This trench is possibly the only trench in the world not made for battle, but for healing. I can walk as much or as little each day and still know, when I come to the end of myself, I will reach Home.