The world contains many paths, some exalted, some mundane. It is not our task to judge the worthiness of our path; it is our task to walk our path with worthiness. . . . We must learn to trust the small light we are given, and to value the light that we can shed into the lives of those around us.
~ Kent Nerburn, Small Graces
Last year we began this journey together. With light hearts, we had decided to give up chocolate and ice cream. We had decided to commit to daily practice of prayer and reading. We made our way to the tunnel armed with plenty of company and plenty of lanterns and plenty of toilet paper.
Then, the usual adventure took a turn. The lanterns blew out. Our company went home. And we ran out of toilet paper. We got cold, lonely, and scared. Our ships became unmoored and tossed about in the storm.
God took us out of our comfort zone and put us to the test.
We are all on God’s Loving Path together. God is teaching us of faithfulness, tender care, hope, and unfailing love. We are all on a journey together. Perhaps we are navigating our own tunnels. Perhaps we are navigating the storm.
When Covid first began there was a meme going around that we were all in the same storm…but we weren’t in the same ship. Some of us were on sailboats. Some of us in yachts. Some of us in ferries. Some on tug boats. Some were paddling canoes. The intent was to be kind and that we have no idea what another person is going through, but it didn’t always come out that way. But I didn’t see it that way.
There was a stickier side to this boat metaphor. It was disconnecting and distancing. I found it to be encouraging us to compare and contrast with one another. To see “who had it worse”. It did not actually encourage us to lend a helping hand or to ask for help. It seemed isolationist. You stay in your boat and I’ll stay in mine. We won’t look too close and we’ll pretend everything is ok.
It encourages all sorts of false masks and facades for whatever feeds the current story. We’re just fine or we’re really not fine. But very little truth.
The lightless tunnel is scary enough. Why do we want to be in a storm in our own boats…alone? What if we come back to the metaphor that we are all in the same storm, in the same boat, and we need to learn to row the boat… together?
It’s a metaphor. We get to choose our metaphor. Our story. Are we each alone in our own boats not looking at one another, not helping one another, worried only about our own boats? Or are we in the same storm, in the same boat, learning to navigate new waters? Together.
All right. We’re Americans. We like our own stuff, but even if we’re in our own individual boats, we still need to learn to navigate together or we crash into each other, we clash with one another, we fight with one another. Especially in the night or in the storm. Or when the swells get overwhelming and it seems like every other boat has everything we wish we had and don’t. Suddenly it seems fair for us to pirate.
We don’t see clearly in the storm. We don’t see as well when it’s cloudy or rainy or snowing. We don’t see as clearly when we’re frightened by the waves hovering over us.
Life is better if we learn to row together. Life is better if we look at how we are the same instead of how we are different. If we’re on a loving path, we are looking to one another. Teaching one another to row. Looking out for holes in one another’s boats. Sharing our life boats and life lessons. Sharing a little extra nourishment or encouragement. Yes, even our toilet paper…
Honestly, most of the time, we are in the same boat. Our lives are not so different from one another. Fundamentally.
At our roots, we have the same universal experience. I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t known grief. I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t know pain. I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t wrestled with anger. I’ve yet to meet anyone who is fearless. I’ve never met anyone who has not been lonely. I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t know shame or guilt or regret.
At its root, we do understand one another. We are all in the same boat at one time or another. Sure, someone’s grief may be heavier right now, but grief is grief. Sure someone is more frightened right now, but fear is fear. By sharing our experiences, by being on God’s loving path together, we can help one another.
Oh yes, I’ve been through that storm. I’ve been with anger, grief, loneliness, and fear. This helps me and maybe it can help you. At the least, we can bear witness and remind each other that it’s ok to feel it. Sometimes we just have to be brave enough to be in the boat together, learning to row together. This is harder, I think, than isolating in our own boats with our own familiar company. Even when we know we’d be healthier, better selves stepping out of the comfort of our own boats.
Perhaps the big lesson of covid is how much we need one another. We need a bigger community than our own boat.
We can pull together and ride out the storm better if we work together and share our experiences. The isolated boat…I don’t think it’s working. Rugged individualism. I don’t think it’s working. Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. I don’t think it’s working.
Sometimes, the journey is a lonely one. Why are we making it more lonely? Why do we discourage one another from rowing the boat together? Why are we unable to work together? Because we are in the same storm and we all have lessons to learn from it.
The cross. It is Lent. We’re on a journey to the Cross. Why is the cross such a powerful image? Part of its power is that it is something we all understand and fear. Suffering. Suffering. It’s something we all know. We all understand. The cross symbolizes our collective pain, fear, loss, grief, dying…suffering.
What do we do with it? What do we do with it?
We rise up. We rise up and we gather together and help one another learn to row through the waters of life. We get help and we give help.
God’s loving path is one of love. It is not a lonely path. Love is a path of community and togetherness. No matter what path, or faith tradition, we follow, we are all pilgrims together on each day’s journey. How can we help one another on that journey? Not by more isolation, but by coming together.
More and more we need to outgrow this idea of me and me and more me. The ego. The ego plays a big part of what is it that keeps us from God and God’s path. We need to get out of our way to be of service to ourselves and others.
The great thing about being on God’s Loving Paths? We have chosen to follow it. Every day we recommit to God’s Loving Paths and we have chosen to follow it and practice it. We may stumble, but each day we have chosen love, help, and support. We have chosen to row together into the storm. We have chosen to walk together into the tunnel.
And hopefully someone brought a compass and a lantern. With one another and with faith, we can keep our eyes on the Light at the other side of the Journey.