I have been thinking a lot about transition. Since early 2017, transition has been the theme of my life. When the expiry date of my work visa in the U.S. was nearing, and there was no clear path or short timeline to a new visa, my husband Allan and I faced many decisions about what we would do next, none of which offered completely satisfactory options.
Then during Lent of that year, Isaiah 42:16 spoke to me: “I will lead the blind by a road they do not know, by paths they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them.”
This verse became a clear invitation for me to trust that God would guide my life and our discernment; that in the midst of uncertainty, God would reveal the next step and would give us the grace and strength to take it.
Consciously stepping off the path that I thought I was on and trusting God for each step of this new path has been a spiritual practice; it has been the most deeply rewarding and the hardest thing I have ever done.
On one of my drives between Kitchener and Goshen, Ind., I was listening to Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith. “The Practice of Getting Lost” chapter was illuminating. She reflects on what it means to leave the well-trodden paths of our lives and explore new terrain. She noticed that when she left familiar paths, she became more attuned to her surroundings; her senses came alive.
While getting lost is not pleasant, there have been things she discovered on the way that she could not have discovered had she stayed on the familiar path. Getting lost, she says, is a spiritual practice; the Bible is a good resource. “God does some of God’s best work with people who are truly, seriously lost,” she writes, citing Abraham and Sarah, and the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. In reflecting on this chapter, I realized that “getting lost” was a good way to describe this period of my life.
This might be a good image or metaphor for the church today. Change and transition have always marked the life of the church, but we are experiencing shifts today that we, in our time, have not experienced. It is not easy to know how to move forward amid significant theological differences. What does it mean to be brothers and sisters when we disagree? The familiar path does not seem to be taking us where we thought it would. Perhaps the invitation for us today is to step off the path, allow ourselves to get lost, and discover anew God’s leading and presence in our midst. May we allow God to do “God’s best work” with us in this time.
Marilyn Rudy-Froese is MC Eastern Canada’s church leadership minister.