I find that one of life’s more frustrating challenges is driving while I am lost. Coming to the crushing conclusion that 1) I do not know where I am; 2) nobody else knows where I am; and 3) I will have to figure it out while navigating a vehicle in traffic, is to me somewhat like simultaneously trying to thread a needle while running ahead of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain…with a migraine headache. In other words, things are going to get ugly.
I was thinking this as I was driving around the outskirts of Langley, trying to follow the floating blue dot on the Google Maps app. Generally, this GPS is quite dependable, which is good news for me, being a directionally challenged individual. Before there was a device that had the ability to locate me, I wandered aimlessly around the earth either completely dependent on following someone who knew where they were going, letting my husband drive, or stumbling onto my destination by pure dumb luck. There were days before cell phones where I would be so hopelessly lost that I would just randomly pick a passing vehicle and think, “They look like they know where they’re going. Maybe if I follow them, I’ll end up somewhere I’ll recognize.”
When cell phones entered the scene, I quickly realized that I now had my own personal road-side assistance service. It was free. His name was Myron.
This service was great because he spoke the language hysterical. When I’d finally figure out what town I was in and the nearest intersection, I’d call in a panic and he’d pull up my destination on his computer, wait the fifteen minutes as I drove in circles trying to figure out which direction I was pointing, then talk me to my destination.
Now, there’s Google Maps. However, on Sunday, Google Maps was as useless as I was because just as I was confidently following my floating blue dot through a haze of unmarked country roads, it suddenly disappeared and jumped to the left by approximately 40 km. A second later it did 180 degree turn, disappeared again and showed up about 60 km to the east. Or to the north…I don’t know, I was losing track.
My heart almost stopped. It can’t do that! (Can it?) It’s the floating blue dot! Its… Google Maps! It’s not allowed to just stop working!
I looked at Bryn and, almost hyper-ventilating, choked out, “Did you see that? Did you see what just happened? Where are we? How could it just move like that? How long has it been in the wrong spot?Now I have no idea where we are!”
“Yes, Mom, I saw it,” she answered carefully. I think she could sense the hysteria creeping into my voice. Or maybe it was in the whites of my eyes. I’m pretty sure she was inching away from me towards the passenger door. Probably not a good sign.
So there I was, completely unsure of what to do. I cannot stand driving when I don’t know where I am going. I had to slow down to a crawl and everyone behind me got frustrated and made a big show about going around us. Take it up with the blue dot, folks! Of course, my face was mashed up against the side of the window as I tried to make out the addresses on the sides of the buildings, the mailboxes…anything…the side of a cow would do, for pete’s sake, could somebody think to put their address on something visible… please? And why is it that when I cannot find my way, every intersection is unmarked? Isn’t that illegal? Shouldn’t there be clearly marked road signs at every intersection, preferably with giant arrows pointing north or south, east and west?
After a few minutes I clued in that the GPS had probably lost its signal and needed to connect to whatever it connects to, which it finally did, and whatever locates me finally did, the floating blue dot reappeared in the right place, I finally found a road sign, turned around and found my way back to the proper street and got to where I was going.
But inside I was screaming my head off.
“This scenario is exactly how I feel,” I was silently ranting inside my head (not wanting Bryn to jump from the car completely). I feel lost. Directionless. Hopeless. Chasing a floating blue answer that keeps disappearing and reappearing somewhere else miles away. Always far away. Elusive and unreachable.
I don’t know how to follow God right now. I don’t know what He wants, where He wants me, what He wants me to do. I don’t know how to pray, how to ask, how to follow. I don’t know what it means to believe or what to believe in. Not only do I not have answers; I don’t even have the questions.
And so I have been thinking all day about the stupid blue dot. What do I do when the dot disappears? What do I do when all of a sudden I don’t know where I am, or who I am, or where I’m going, or which direction I’m supposed to turn? I have all these overwhelming decisions to make, and they are doing exactly that. They are overwhelming me. I don’t know what to do. And I can’t find the blue dot. Google Maps doesn’t seem to be able to reach that far into the universe.
A few seconds ago I wrote that I was “pondering” this, but I deleted that and re-wrote that I was fuming this. Fuming because I have lately been in the position of having to hound people to get their jobs done, things we were waiting on, and I actually found myself yelling at God and saying, “Really, Lord, do I have to do your job, too? Aren’t you supposed to be doing this? Aren’t you supposed to be taking care of all these questions, all these scenarios that are keeping me awake and taking up countless hours of phone calls and research and arrangements and appointments and decisions? Aren’t you the one who is supposed to step in and make this work? Because I kind of feel like I’m doing everything here. And things just keep getting harder and harder, and for every one thing that gets accomplished three more things fill its place. When do you pick up the slack, Lord? When does someone step in and help with my job?” As I said it out loud I was struck with the gall and pettiness of my accusation.
And yet, where is the direction I so desperately, desperately need?
As soon as I spoke this out loud, I was suddenly reminded about a time years ago when I took the kids to a local Search and Rescue center for a field trip. We learned about the different rescue vehicles they used, the gear, forest fires, helicopters…but do you know what my kids remember, to this day, from that lecture? Hug a Tree. That was the slogan: “Hug a Tree.” They learned that when you get lost in the forest, separated from your group, your instinct is to wander; that most people will immediately try to find their way back to their campsite, or their group, their trail or their car, and either get themselves more lost, farther from help, or be walking in circles and miss the rescue workers completely.
The very best thing to do, they told us that day, was hug a tree. Stop. Find a tree. Stay there. Wait until the rescuer comes to show you the way home.
Stop, Gillian. Wait, Gillian. The rescuer will come, Gillian. He will show the way home.
It is hard to wait. Waiting takes faith. Waiting says,
“I will trust that You will find a way to make this work for our good.”
Well, that sounds great, but the definition of “our good” is somewhat iffy right now, so my honest perception of that then adjusts and it becomes,
“I will trust that You will find a way.”
But Lord, I have lately been pretty disappointed in your choice of paths. In all honesty, this path is horrible. No offence. What if I don’t want to walk this direction? Then, all I am left with is…
I’d rather He just wrote out the answer, like the address I needed, or the directions, on a street sign. Or on a mailbox. Or on a cow. Either way.
We’ve had to do a lot of waiting and waiting isn’t easy. Last Wednesday we spent the day at the Children’s Hospital, Bryn and I. It was a big day, an anticipated day. She had three x-rays, a CT scan and an MRI, and the long awaited consult with the ortho surgeon. It was the day we were expecting to find out the surgical date for Bryn’s leg. We have been waiting for a year and had been told it was likely to be done this summer. Everything has been put on hold for this surgery. All her physiotherapy work, four days a week, has been moving her towards this surgery date. Last Wednesday we found out that due to cutbacks, it will have to be pushed back another 12 months. Devastating to a little girl who so wants to get on with her life, who has so far to go, but who has to wait. I was so grateful for a surgeon who dismissed the crowded room of doctors and practitioners and spent time with Bryn and I, who wanted to know how she felt, who let her cry, who let her be angry, who with great compassion said he wished it could be different but that her day was coming. It reminded me again that a few minutes of someone’s time and some empathy can make all the difference in the world. All the difference.
“Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not be weary; and they will walk, and not faint.” As I sit here writing, this verse rings in my heart. I know I must follow it. I know it will bring rest to my confusion, peace to my frustration, strength to my weariness. My spirit says it is right, but it goes against everything I am internally programmed to do. It is confusing to know when to wait, and when to act.
Because…we do not live in a world that waits. We do not go to movies to be inspired about the person who had a problem and then went to their apartment and sat and waited. It is the action that inspires us. It is the conflict that inspires us. It is the endurance, the gruelling struggle to accomplish the task that seemed impossible that makes us think, “I want to be just like them!”
Until the task is before us.
Until we do not know what to do.
Until everything we try crumbles in our hands and we wonder if we are living the right story. Surely, surely there has been a mistake.
All I know is that this is not working. So I must try again to stop searching for a way to navigate through the snarl of the traffic…and wait, perhaps, for the wings of the eagle to lift me one day above it. I don't know why that's so hard. It shouldn't be. I already know I hate driving without knowing where I'm going.
I have recently begun to view grief like a series of circles. In the beginning, the circle is tiny, so small that I was merely able to pivot, to spin, unable to move anywhere. There was no leaving the pain of it, the intense horror of the reality. As time drags me with it, the circles gradually widen, they get a bit larger and I find that there are days where I find there is some distance from the pain, some distraction in my responsibilities, in my work, or teaching. But they are circles and by their very nature lead me back to the place of loss and pain I had for a moment stepped away from. There is no escaping it, no healthy way, anyways. I often wish that grief could be linear, that I could just keep walking and walking, leaving it behind me, never to visit it again, never to hurt, to feel, to have to circle back to that gaping hole that sits in the center of myself, that wound that hurts so very, very much.
Part of the frustration is that I never know what kind of circle I will be walking each day. Will it be a small, tight one, that I walk around again and again and again, visiting the grief and pain over and over until I finally collapse next to the crater unwilling to take another step? Or will it be a lengthy, meandering walk, where I have time to see the sky and the trees, and my bouncing, laughing children; the triple my daughter will hit in the evening park; the song the daughter wrote and is singing at the top of her lungs; the knock-knock joke heard at the dinner table, being told over and over and over even though it makes no sense? Will today it be the walk where I have had time to fill my lungs with the fresh air of a new morning when suddenly I realize that the circle has been completed and I am back to where I started, sadly taken by surprise at the suddenness of the revisiting of the loss? Or, will I find myself standing at the crater’s edge, gratefully surprised at the length of the reprieve in between visits. It is a mystery.
My children continue to amaze me with their insight. Yesterday, Bryn said, “You know how people say the greatest thing someone can do is lay their life down for another person? If I was going to have to sacrifice something for someone I really loved, it would be for them to die, not me.” I knew immediately what she was trying to say. “It is an amazing thing to die for someone,” she said. “But it is a much harder thing to have to stay behind without the person you love. If I really loved someone, I would rather they got to die, and I had to stay and live the torture without them.”
And there, I thought, was someone who knew the true meaning of love.