Not all those who wander are lost. – J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings)
When my husband bought a sailboat last summer we all told him to take sailing lessons. “Are you crazy?” We’d all say when he refused. “Of course you need to take lessons!” Instead, he got on the sailboat with a friend or two, a couple of times a week, and taught himself how to sail. When the boat didn’t move, when it only went 2 knots and he knew he could be going 7 knots, he thought about why not. He adjusted and readjusted sails, tacked back and forth, and watched some YouTube videos. But mostly, he just kept getting on that boat and trying. He got pretty good very fast.
We have this pull to be successful and ambitious and productive. We want to feel useful, know that we are achieving something. But some things don’t come with that sort of striving, or end with that sort of outcome. At least not at first, and “at first” can take a very long time. Some things involve a lot of detours, and mistakes, and confusion, and self-doubt.
Creativity can take this route, and in a surprisingyly similar way, so can faith. There is no one telling me what direction to take, what to believe or not believe, what book to write, what blog post to create. I only have my intuition, my curiosity, my heart. I am being forced to make my own decisions, and let go of the desire to be right. I have made mistakes, written badly, tried to be something I’m not, compared myself too much, looked to others for the answers only I can figure out.
This is a very slow process. And I am learning to be okay with that. I am learning to trust this path, though it feels a lot more like wandering, sometimes frantically, through an unmarked forest. I’m learning to appreciate the unknown of it all. Realizing that I am only learning, that all of this practice and exploring is guiding me, is teaching me what this writing thing, this faith thing, means for me, in my life. Like any type of renovation, learning and growing happens slowly, and things tend to get very messy and ugly before becoming fresh and beautiful.
If I can tell you anything, if you happen to feel lost, if you are frustrated that you are not “getting anywhere”, look for the simple yet powerful lessons in your everyday. The tiny blessings. Allow them to build your character, let them strengthen your gratitude. Once I got over my addiction to achieving, realized how my identity was so tightly wound around praise and external rewards, I began to deeply appreciate the slow and simple life. I don’t notice things when I am rushing. I miss opportunities to learn, to enjoy, to be blessed and to be a blessing. This slow pace, when we often feel like we are doing nothing at all, can be life’s best teacher. I can honestly say I have never been happier. And, well, one never knows what is around the bend.