I used to think there would be a time in my life where I would feel like I had arrived. Like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or reaching the mountain’s summit. The long exhale out of all I had worked for, breath in of satisfaction. I would feel content and certain, have the trophy with the inscription “Lisa Gungor has completed said task with moderate skills and semi-good attitude.” I’d see the grand path of the future laid out clearly with all the right answers. No question marks. But I’m finding these moments are fleeting. I feel the summit, then the mountain augments, another journey begins. I find the gold, the key, the thread of truth that unlatches every thing. This is the thing I have been looking for, this is what makes sense of it all. Clarity is everywhere. Then the thread unravels, leading to other threads that are tangled and weaving a fabric of complex chaos. I find the gold, but rather, it is gold foil-covered Hershey’s chocolate...the worst kind of chocolate.
Last summer, I went on a silent retreat that took me from one of the most wandering of places to clarity. But the clarity was more making peace with the wandering rather than finding all the answers…which, I think, is a good place to be in. A wandering that wasn’t so scary - more like exploring space with a tether, rather than flailing off into the abyss. More grateful for finding the corner of the map than no map at all. But it took an opening of the hands for this to happen.
I never knew how clenched my fists were until I had to let go. And yes, I had to let go. Some foundational ideals I was holding were actually hurting me. Poisoning any healthy growth. I continually wanted to go back to what I knew, what was familiar. But eventually the tape used to hold cracks together would fail, and I would get angry all over again at the ideals I had just let go of. The going back sends me into a tail-spin every time…dragging me under to a place Michael likes to call “crazy town,” though I prefer to call “the deep dark abyss of death.” …dramatic yet appropriate.
On this retreat, I remember climbing to the top of a hill, long before the sun was up. I waited. And I watched in awe as the sky began to glow with shades of orange, then burning crimson, light crawling along the valley and then up the hills. I looked down at my clenched fists. I saw worry, uncertainty, doubt…fear. Loads and loads of fear. I was afraid if I opened the hands that I would lose ground and never find anything to stand on, that I would just keep slipping.
But I had to. It felt a lot like jumping off a cliff. Like leaping over an edge that doesn't necessarily have a landing point. Like someone asking “Do you want to leave your family, your friends, everything you’ve ever known, and start a new life on the moon?” The unknown. Total uncertainty. I was headed to the moon. I knew something was shifting in my soul and it was a choice. As I opened up my hands, letting go of all that was holding me, the ground I had been floating on shifted and became solid. The air became breath. The world became mystery and goodness. My soul felt an unimaginable freedom. And the doubt that I thought was in opposition to my faith actually took on a different face - once that leads to truth.
I stayed there for hours, sun coming up, beautiful world awakening. After years of throwing punches, the uncertainty of life and I had a long chat and found we could actually be friends. Some people may have found their life has one destination, but I’ve found mine has had several, and still more to come.