“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” Thomas Merton
Do you remember the movie “Indiana Jones, the Last Crusade?” World weary Indy, who has been everywhere and seen everything, is no believer. Perhaps, seeing hearts torn from the living in the Temple of Doom or enduring poison arrows and massive rolling boulders guarding a stone icon soured him on religion. But Henry, his father, played by Sean Connery, is just such a man.
The elder Dr. Jones has not spent his time on artifacts, but rather searched his entire life for clues to the location of the Holy Grail, the cup Christ drank from at The Last Supper. When the Nazis shoot Henry, Indy’s only chance to save his father is to find the Grail. To do this, he has risk his own life to get past several challenges. The secret to accomplishing that is found in his father’s journal which holds the wisdom Henry has discovered over a lifetime.
Of all the scenes in any of the Indiana Jones movies, my favorite is Harrison Ford, standing on edge of an abyss, pushed to embrace stepping forward into seeming nothingness or accept his father’s death. Indy, relying on the wisdom in his father’s journal, faces the void and makes the “leap of faith.”
Have you experienced that kind of moment? A point in time when you can or perhaps must embrace the next step forward….or retreat to the tried and true.
Doug and I are looking at his retirement…and it truly appears like a step into the unknown. We haven’t quite reached it….but it is there up ahead, looming closer and coming within view. And it is filled, if not with emptiness, with uncertainty. What will it be like for someone who has pretty much worked every day, even on vacations, to stop? What do you feel like when you have checked off every item on your to do list….and you don’t even have a list anymore? Or maybe only a bucket list. Is it wonderful freedom…or a loss of being needed…or both?
We have ideas about how to fill this lack of unrelenting necessary, and do look forward to escaping the tyranny of the urgent. For me, selling my book, and researching the next. For Doug, some writing as well. For both of us, volunteering in areas of our interest and expertise.with those who have experienced trauma, veterans or victims of violence. But even given that, it seems like there is a vast unknown territory out there.
It seems to me that aging and retirement lead to both a redirection of focus that carries the exciting opportunity for a new beginning, yet simultaneously require the letting go of some of the things that give you status and recognition for who you are, of what you are expert in, or what you have achieved.
Yesterday, Doug had a medical consult for some surgery he may have to have. In filling out the paperwork prior to the visit, I watched him fill in his occupation, his employer. The words said so much about him. Occupation: clergyman Employer: First Presbyterian Church of Edenton Just reading those words you gain clues to his interests, and at least possibly some of his skills. He is learned. A scholar. He writes and speaks well. He is great with people, caring, compassionate. He is a man of faith.
Then, he filled out a section on me. Occupation: Retired Employer: Blank All my skills and areas of expertise unreported. A blank slate…an empty slate….or a clean slate, perhaps.
…the new opportunity.
Henry Jones’ journal carried this entry about the challenges Indy was to face: “Now, he who finds the Grail must face 3 challenges. First, is the path of God: Only the penitent man shall pass. Second, is the word of God: Only in the footsteps of God, shall he proceed. Last is the breath of God: Only in a leap from the lion’s head shall he prove his worth.”
The path for Doug and for me has passed the first two challenges. Our work has taught us that we must be humble in the face of the lives that have been entrusted to us, and to seek forgiveness for the ways we have been unable to help at times. For the second, we have tried to proceed in the paths we believe God set before our feet. Now, we face the third.
Frederick Buechner says it this way: “Faith is the word that describes the direction our feet start moving when we find that we are loved. Faith is stepping out into the unknown with nothing to guide us but a hand just beyond our grasp.”
Merton’s quote tells me that we don’t have to know exactly how it will all work out, and we actually don’t even have to make a huge leap. We only need to keep walking in hope. The path really is there, as it has been all along.
I trust that. I hope as you move through your lives in the everyday moments and in the path changing moments of new direction, you can trust it, too.
There really is nothing to fear. Reach for me, and I’ll reach for you, and we can hold hands and explore those new paths together.