One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice–though the whole house began to tremble and you felt the old tug at your ankles. “Mend my life!” each voice cried. But you didn’t stop. You knew what you had to do, though the wind pried with its stiff fingers at the very foundations, though their melancholy was terrible. It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones. But little by little, as you left their voices behind, the stars began to burn through the sheets of clouds, and there was a new voice which you slowly recognized as your own, that kept you company as you strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing you could do–determined to save the only life you could save.“The Journey” by Mary Oliver
I stumbled across this poem at a time when I felt simultaneously stuck and like I needed to prepare for something big. The first time I read it, I was surprised by the tears that seemed to come from a deep well inside my heart. I felt like I knew where I wanted to go but lost as to how I should get there. And I remember feeling afraid of the journey, afraid of the unknown, afraid of the steps I knew needed to take.
Today, it seems fitting that this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver has appeared in my life once again.
These days, I am so very aware of the journey, of the little steps that I take every day. Some of these steps are forward, and honestly, some of these steps feel backward. They feel like the backing-away kind of steps, the kind I take when I feel cornered or trapped, the kind that are wrapped in fear and insecurities.
These days, every day feels like a big step on this long, long journey. Every day feels like an invitation to trust a little more, breathe a little deeper, risk a little greater. Every day feels like an invitation to confront the fears, the doubts, the questions, and the insecurities that have always lived in the corners of my mind.
And if I’m being honest, it’s a one-step-forward-two-step-back kind of journey, because this journey is hard. Writing is hard. Trusting is hard. Believing so very deeply in the calling is hard. My journal is full of pages that ask the Lord hard questions. These pages look like a mixture of Truth and also honest emotions and thoughts and questions and doubts. The journey has felt more like a battle these days—a battle to live past fear, a battle to live with authenticity and vulnerability, a battle to trust and believe and live with courageous confidence.
Courageous confidence even in the battle, knowing that overwhelming victory is already mine.
Courageous confidence on this journey, knowing that the Father has always and will always walk beside me.
Courageous confidence in the journey, knowing what I have to do and simply beginning—day after day after day.
There is a deep kind of trust that comes in this journey, the kind of trust that has caught me off guard by how vulnerable and raw it leaves me feeling. But isn’t it true that to walk into a space of vulnerability requires deep trust, and deep trust leads to authentic vulnerability? I know I just threw out so many buzz words that have become cliche, but these days, I am realizing the importance and power of vulnerability on this journey with the Father.
What could I hide from him? How could I mask my truest thoughts and emotions and insecurities and doubts and questions. I’ve tried that. Spoiler alert—it never works. It always leaves me living in denial. So these days, I am trying to live with a deeper and deeper trust in the heart of my Father and in this journey He’s creating. I am trying to live with a deeper and deeper sense of vulnerability with the Father—a vulnerability that is not an act or a show.
And what I’m learning is the Father is so faithful to meet me in this space—a space that leaves me feeling so raw and exposed before Him and also so deeply known and loved. He has been so kind, so full of love, so overflowing with grace in this space. In this space of vulnerability and trust, the journey becomes more joyful, more life-giving, more purposeful, more and more and more holy.
On the days when I get it right, when I’m not taking two steps backward, I find myself writing through tears as the Father brings words and stories and memories to my heart and mind, and suddenly I feel this deep urge to take off my shoes. The journey I am on is holy.
The journey you are on is holy. My journey with the Lord looks like writing and trusting and letting go of control. Your journey with the Lord might be marked by something different, but may you and I trust. May we step into vulnerability with the Father. May we be a people who embrace the journey the Father has created for us, and may we walk with the Father, even on the days when we take two steps back.