Blaze by Blaze
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you're not going to stay where you are.”
—John Pierpont Morgan
What’s your most memorable story about getting lost? What do you remember about finding your way home?
One of my stories is about getting lost in the woods during my first October in Maine. That’s where I went running—naively or foolishly, depending on how charitable you want to be—around twilight. Dark fell fast. I’d been following blue blazes painted onto trees, but took a wrong turn and spent a long time questioning my life choices. Once I was home, it occurred to me that fear—not the cold or the steep trail zigzagging into darkness—had presented the greatest danger.
Just a few months later, a painful betrayal threw me into a different kind of wilderness: I found myself with neither a place to live nor a job to secure one. For months, I tossed between despair and survival, too ashamed to ask for much help.
It was a gentle ministerial colleague who offered me a lifeline. Tell me the story, she prompted during one of our conversations, about the night you got lost in the woods.
So I explained: as I wandered that night, I realized that I didn’t have to deduce the mountain’s topography or the entire trail. I managed to find a single tree hatched with blue paint, and ventured out in loops to find just one more. Then another, and another. Blaze by blaze—however haphazardly—I moved toward safety. Toward home.
Maybe in this wilderness, my colleague offered, you don’t need to figure out the entire mountain. What if you don’t need to know more than the very next sign? And when you need to know more, you will.
We talked about where, in all of my lostness, I sensed a single sign forward. I felt hope catch, which allowed me to risk asking for more help—from Spirit, and from other humans. Very slowly, I emerged from a fearsome wilderness into something that felt like safety.
You’ve been lost, too. Maybe you’re there right now. I know that fear. I also know that whether it’s deep in the woods or in the belly of shame, fear is a con job: it tells lies about everything from our options to our own worth.
Lift your head above those lies and borrow some hope: through both human companionship and a Knowing greater than our own, sometimes we find our way home. May it be so for you.