I wonder if you’ve had this strange experience: you are driving in a town or city and trying to find a particular location; you think you have at least a rough idea of where you are going, and slowly, slowly, the roads, buildings and scenery becomes less familiar. Whatever directions you were attempting to follow, now bear little relationship to the things you are seeing. You take a few guesses and find yourself in ever more unfamiliar territory. Of course, so far this is a male orientated story, as most women would have the wisdom to ask for directions rather than go hunting for clues! So change the scene to night time and no-one is around. You feel rather alone, (you have no sat nav), and a rising sense of anxiety is gripping you. The fact is that you have lost your way. The familiar has become strange, your knowledge doesn’t seem to apply, and your resources are running low. It may be unpleasant but unless you are in an extremely dangerous neighbourhood you will eventually sort this problem out.
In life and work, however, it can be a bit more complicated. Perhaps you set out on a career path with a clear sense of direction. You acquired some skills and the necessary resources and travelled well and purposefully,.but now you are losing your way. It may just be a short term project, and you are not sure what to do or where to go, it may be a six month struggle to get back on track, or it could be that you are feeling completely at sea, adrift and in some serious stress. Certainties have become doubts and you feel somewhat mismatched to your circumstances. You haven’t changed or lost all your skills, but you just don’t know where you are or, as a result, what to do. You assume that this won’t last forever, but time slows down when you are lost and other people seem to be over the distant horizon.
The bible is full of people who lost their way. Job’s whole life fell to pieces in front of him; Elijah had no idea why he had run so far and felt so alone; Peter, in tears, in denial, and off-course; A married couple walking to Emmaus, in despair about their lost hopes; a woman bent double for years, and another married five times; an Ethiopian travelling with wealth but no clue about real riches until Philip joins his journey.
In this list you see short term, acute confusion, long term pain and disintegration, and all stages in between. For all the cast members, they no longer know the right lines, where to stand or what to say. If there is any truth in the statement “All the world’s a stage”, these players have stage fright.
Not all the travellers in the biblical records ended well. There are a significant number of kings, judges and soldiers who lost their way for good. Israel’s first king, Saul, seemed to succumb to depression, anger and jealousy, and when the time came he literally, as well as spiritually, fell on his sword.
So the stakes are high and the pain is real. But there are other endings, different beginnings and surprising story lines. This piece is about losing your way – designed to weep with those who weep; there are other times and there is more to say and we will say it next time.
Palm 42: 3-5
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.
5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
I Kings 19: 3-9
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
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