Praying the path

When I wrote this essay almost 10 years ago, I had been in a desperate search for answers in my life. I knew, like the seasons, I had to let go. I share these words with the hope that others who are in this space now may know they are not alone. That healing and answers do come. Here is my story.

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leavesA leaf falls. Then another. I want to hold on, to summer, to my writing, to my life. But lately it feels as if I am losing them all.

The path I am walking winds next to a creek, stubbled with rocks. Somehow, the water finds its way around the stones, not pushing but simply being what it is. I stand there for some seconds, the stream rippling and gurgling and I, yearning to hear what my heart is struggling to tell me.

Another leaf glides down, landing softly in the stream, then floats away. Then another. I want summer to stay. I want the warmth and comfort of the season, the earthy smells of jasmine and honeysuckle, the sun burning my skin, the salty smell of ocean waves, the softness of a summer evening and fireflies flitting through tall weeds — I want it all to stay. But as singer Joni Mitchell wrote, “It’s got the urge for going, so I guess it’ll have to go.”

I walk a little further, up a small incline to a bend in the road. Here, the path splits. Both lanes are shaded and cool, two-paths-5both inviting. I find a nearby stump and sit. I am weary. It seems I have walked this path a hundred times before, searching for answers. It seems I have prayed this path too many times.

Now I must let go of even the prayers. I must rest in faith. I must fall into the uncertainty that is my life.

The truth is I may never find my calling or purpose. Or my writing may never find a home. I call myself a writer, but is that my path? And what does “being a writer” really mean? The world is filled with writers, offering their wisdom or insights. Writing is like any other task — hard work and seldom appreciated.

What I seek is deeper meaning in my life, that somehow my meager existence can better the world in some say. So I ask: “Is there something else, dear God — something deeper, greater — that you want of me?”

But I have no answers. For anything.  Jesus the Christ or Buddha would say this unknowing is good, that we must “lose our life to find it.” They would also advise to “do nothing” or “simply be.” Rilke would say to be patient toward all that is unresolved in the heart — to live the questions and not to seek the answers, not now.

All these seem like well-meaning platitudes. Here, years past mid-life, I want answers. I want ground under my feet.

queen-annes-lace-theresa-johnsonI bend over to pick a flower, Queen Anne’s Lace, and I unearth it, roots and all. This is how I feel lately. As if God has reached down and plucked me whole.

I inhale to feel my own life force, the cool air filling my lungs, then I exhale. With my breath are my prayers. They have become simple lately, so scaled down that at times they are barely audible. This is how I pray:

“I’m here. Help me. Thank you.”

I pray “I’m here” because I feel as if God has forgotten me. I feel the need to remind the Divine that I’m still here on earth, still yearning for a life that matters.

I pray “Help me” because I need God’s help more than ever to guide me.

And finally, I pray Thank you” my small token of hope that somewhere, somehow God is helping me, even though I don’t see it or feel it. Even then I’m not sure help is coming. But I have no other choice. I must be open to God’s graces, trust that my prayers are being heard. It is yet another letting go.

I finally stand. I must walk on water and on the ground, let summer go and trust that perhaps around a bend in the road, there is direction, hope, happiness. But I don’t know. There are no guarantees or promises.

I only know I must take the next step. I draw in another deep breath and choose one of the paths. I move forward. I whisper “I’m here” as another golden leaf drifts down, falling at my feet.

 

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