I am at a prayer session of sorts. The church I attend has invited women to come to the home of one of our staff ministers for an evening of respite away from our busy lives. As we quiet ourselves in stillness, all of us lying on the floor, a woman moves around the room and lays her hands on our heads – on each of us for just a few minutes – and prays for us silently. She is reputed to have a gift for visions. I’m not exactly sure what that means. I am so utterly cynical of such things: “visions”, a vibrantly healthy church family, overly happy people. I really just want a quiet evening all to myself. Lying here on this floor with a sofa pillow under my head will do nicely. As wary as I am of this woman’s upbeat, charismatic personality and “vision” claims, I want to be like her. She has a seemingly unshakeable faith and confidence in the unseen world. Maybe one day I will too.
When the hour of stillness is over, she tells us each what pressed on her spirit while praying. There are about ten of us here, and I am the second one to whom she speaks. She says the word “transformation” kept coming to her…and an image of a heart wide open, with a myriad of rooms to be explored…that there were good things to be found in those parcels of my heart…that the year ahead would be transforming. This resonates. I’ve felt it begun already.
That was two-and-a-half years ago. In the months to follow, I journeyed deep into the valley of grief with friends who buried a child, had two friends deliberately remove themselves from my life, and had two friends move away. Transformative? Indeed. Metamorphosis? Something like that. But am I an egg, larva, chrysalis or butterfly? Am I getting to know myself? Becoming more comfortable in my own skin? Learning to legitimately love myself? I can’t quite put words to it. But I know, for sure, I have a New Path ahead of me. I have arrived at a crossroads, and it’s time for me to take the turn.
Anyone ever born into the world travels their own individual path. And because thinking in metaphors helps me better understand these sorts of things, I typically envision these paths running through a forest (scrubby mesquites, towering pines, massive redwoods…take your pick). I’ve been walking a path near my parents and brother my entire life. My husband’s and my paths have been side by side, paralleling for almost 17 years, with our three children appearing (out of thin air!) over the last decade. Then there’s everyone else – varying levels of friends, acquaintances, strangers – and our paths weave in and out of each other’s lives. There are some with whom I’ve walked so closely that our paths have been practically the same, and now because of time and other relationships, I have to squint to see them, our trajectories having taken us in such different directions. We all move at our own pace trekking through the timberland, just as we do through life, paths crisscrossing, overlapping, sometimes abruptly shifting into about-face mode.
Somewhere during the last two years I am padding along when I notice the New Path up ahead and feel drawn to it, but also afraid. The unknown, you know…the UNKNOWN!!! A sign points to the offshoot: This Way to Unexplored Chamber of Your Heart. I mosey up to the juncture and stand there for the longest time, staring down at what-could-be-my-new-path, digging my toe in the dirt as if I could tell what was ahead from the texture of the ground beneath my feet. The whirlwind of those two friendships disintegrating behind me shoves me forward, forcing me to stumble onto the unfamiliar path. And then, a brand-new friendship blasts out of nowhere and happily distracts me from the fear of my changing course and from my recent painful break-ups. So I stop. Right where I am. Resting in the relief of having a new, attentive friend, I put the idea of traveling the New Path on the backburner.
But nowadays, the dust kicked up by the flurry of that freshly fulfilling friendship has settled, and I can feel the pull of the path again. It’s time to refocus on the walk before me. I’m not necessarily thrilled about this realization. It’s hard leaving behind a precious, life-giving season of your journey. Who KNOWS what’s ahead? It could be ANYTHING. It could be breath-takingly beautiful, like standing underneath a canopy of millions of monarch butterflies wintering in the fir forests of central Mexico. Or it could be an awful trudge through swampwaters infested with less-friendly creatures. Or…OR…it COULD be that a terrifying swim through the swamp is my one and only way to the monarch haven. What’s to come is still blind to me (as uncharted territory usually is), and I’m fully aware it has potential to be painful, frightening and/or lonely. But I also know this New Path has potential to be healing, freeing, TRANSFORMING.
So I’m walking forward. Tentatively. With some anxiety (you betcha!). Paraphrasing author Jim Palmer’s words from above: I’ve been knowing…it’s time to get going. I’ve had an awareness of the road ahead for a while now, but here’s where the rubber needs to meet the road. Or…here’s where my foot needs to meet the earth. Whatever. So I choose to move forward…with plenty of lookbacks at where I was, where I’ve been these past two years…where I’ve been my entire life, honestly.
I have no idea what stage of my “transformation” is indicated by this recent change in direction (larva sounds about right. larrrrrrrrrvaaaaaaa.). But I guess it doesn’t matter. It’s happening…so I’m happening with it. As with most new and unexplored trails, there’s both anxiety and anticipation about what’s ahead. I like to think this path I’m now traveling is drawing me closer to this clearing in the forest I’ve heard about. Right smack in the middle is a tree so expansive its shade covers anyone who admits they need it, a tree with millions of metamorphosized winged creatures fluttering in and about its branches. A place where we hikers can truly rest, a place of peace, a place that gives Life in its purest form. That’s where I hope I’m heading.