I have been re reading Barbara Brown Taylor’s book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, in particular the chapter on “The Practice of Getting Lost”. She writes about how we stick to safe paths and avoid stepping out of our comfort zones to avoid taking risks and getting lost. “If you do not start choosing to get lost in some fairly low-risk ways, then how will you ever manage when one of life’s big winds knocks you clean off your course?”… ” The Bible is a great help to me in this practice [of getting lost], since it reminds me that God does some of God’s best work with people who are truly, seriously lost.” (p. 72, 73) She contemplates Abraham and Sarah’s “willingness to get lost”. (p. 73)
As I thought about this chapter, I had a little trouble with the idea of getting lost. I like to know where I am and what is going on. The idea of intentionally getting lost is, well, not too appealing. After all, I wouldn’t be in control then, would I? Then of course I “got” it. My difficulty with getting lost is that what is lost is my control of my life. As if I ever truly was in control of my life…
I am also reading, with some community college students, Quentin Schultze’s book, Here I Am:Now What on Earth Should I Be Doing. In this book he makes a helpful distinction between the common vocation of all Christian to love God and neighbor and the various stations we find ourselves in. (9-10) By station Schultze means the various particular life situations we find ourselves in-parent, friend, accountant, veterinarian, neighbor, mechanic, stranger at the grocery store. Our vocation does not change but the ever changing and multifaceted nature of our stations requires us to continually discover the ways we are to work out our faith.
Schultze echos Martin Luther’s understanding that God provides for us in the variety of stations found in the world. “He [God] provides stations so we can all serve each other for the good of society as well as the church. Each of us depends on other stations… The historical meaning of station is ‘where one keeps watch’ … In our stations, we caretakers stand watch on behalf of the Lord in the service of others. ” (15)
What these authors have to say runs counter to our American myth of the self sufficient loner and the self made individual. Our culture celebrates the individual and values independence. It’s not bad to be an individual and to be independent as long as we remember that we’re neither as self made nor as independent as we might think.
Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers pokes some substantial holes in the myth of the self made individual. None of us gets to where ever we are by ourselves.
As the saying goes, does it take a village?
In one sense it takes all of civilization both past and present. Without Gutenberg and his printing press I would not have read any of the books I just wrote about. Without my public school teachers, I couldn’t have read those books. As for writing? Certainly I don’t even know how to make a pencil, let alone a computer.
And yes it does take all the people I come in contact with every day. The school secretary, the dry cleaner, the person who carries out my groceries, the dentist, the driveway repair people, they all take care of me in quite particular ways.
What does it mean to recognize our profound and God given interdependence?
In my village, it means- at the very least- I should be more intentionally aware of those around me and more vocal in my gratitude.
On a somewhat larger scale, what would recognizing our interdependence mean? Would we be less inclined to bad mouth and demonize those with whom we disagree? Could we value people with different opinions and ideas? We don’t have to agree, but perhaps we could recognize that talking with someone who holds a different opinion shapes us in good and helpful ways.
What things large and small would change?
How would our understanding of God change?
I’d like to know what do you think?