Friday, September 10, 2010

Borderlands

While we are here in New Hampshire for a couple of months, we are always on the lookout for wild animals - especially bear and moose.  But we enjoy the foxes, turkeys and smaller animals as well. There is more wildlife here than other places because this town borders the White Mountain National Forest.

We have noticed from our own experience, as well as from the accounts of others, that it is normally at the dawn and twilight that the animals are seen. Wildlife appears in the transition times when the light is slipping into darkness or vice versa.

It is the same with God. Our Lord appears in the transition times. It is no accident that the risen Christ arose “while it was still dark” and appeared on the Emmaus Road “when it was getting dark” and at the Sea of Galilee “early in the morning.”

There are transition times in our lives – times that straddle life and death, employment and unemployment, health and illness. C. S. Lewis called them Shadowlands. Bob Dylan described it as the north country “where the winds hit heavy on the borderline.”

This last year has been a transition time for me. I quit my position as a fulltime pastor a year ago for a full year of intentional hiatus. I am “between churches” as they say in my profession. The year is now officially up. In fact it was up two weeks ago. Now when people ask me what I am doing, I don’t know what to say.

People ask me if I am retired. I reply, “I don’t know. I don’t think so.” They laugh as if I were telling a joke, but I am serious. I have gone from an intentional sabbatical to a true transition time. I don’t know what I am doing at the moment. Most people don’t know what to make of my situation. Some are unsettled by it. Some understand.

I met the son of an old friend the other day. His dad had died recently, and he was in a transition time. He also happens to be a life coach. After reminiscing about his father, he asked what I was doing. I explained my situation, and he knew instantly what I was talking about. But most people’s eyes are not adjusted to the gray light of the borderlands. They cannot stand long in the heavy winds of the borderline. They seek shelter in the familiar.

But in this borderland I see God. I am more spiritually aware now than ever before in my life. I see more clearly in the twilight than at noon. I am free to be open to God and to opportunities for ministry.

Last winter I was on a retreat with a man who described himself as a “freelance pastor.” I didn’t know what he meant at the time, and I pressed him on the matter. Now I understand. I might even start using that term when people ask me what I am doing these days.

The Lord walks the borderlands. He is not comfortable in civilized places. They are too mapped out and organized for him. He meets us in the unformed wilderness places of our lives and our souls. At those times and places we are malleable, and he can work with us. In this valley of the shadow, the Lord is with me. I know that “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” You know the rest.
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Painting is “Shadowlands,” by Jude Woodland, acrylic on canvas

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