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Discovery in Exile

On our continuing journey with the Israelites and Moses in the wilderness, we find the people complaining about the lack of food. “Oh why didn’t God just kill us when we were fed and satisfied instead of dragging us all this way just to die of starvation?” Actually it seems like a fairly legitimate question. And Yahweh answers by sending quail for that evening and then manna, bread from heaven, to sustain them for the next forty years.

Forty years… frankly, there is nothing I want to eat every day for forty years. Not even chocolate. I don’t think it can get more boring and predictable than that.

Well, in these times of pandemic exile we probably aren’t struggling with the boredom of eating the same thing every day. But there is some similarity especially if you’re trying to stay more isolated and safe. At the beginning of all this it truly felt like the movie Groundhog Day where every day felt exactly the same. Some of us didn’t even know what day of the week it was because not much changed. It was boring and predictable.

Yes, things have loosened up a bit. I know some of you have gone to weddings and funerals, or visited family, or hung out on your back deck, or maybe even gone out to eat. But we’re still lamenting the loss of so much. And I’m afraid that as we get into fall and winter, and our ability to socialize outdoors where it feels a bit safer has ended, that we’ll start to get as whiny and complaining as the Israelites. When is it all going to end? When will we be through this crazy time and get life somewhat back to normal?

The question for me becomes: how can we get out of the rut of lamenting and bemoaning what we can’t have right now, and instead turn this into a journey of discovery instead.

As kids we were great at discovery. A magnifying glass outdoors opened up a whole new world. A large box became a trip into outer space, or a ride on the ocean, or a castle. Even an old magazine could be cut up and turned into something wonderful. But as adults we aren’t as good at discovery as we could be. As Mark Nepo says, “We are creatures that seek out guarantees, and in so doing, we snuff the spark that is discovery.”

Here are a few things you could try if you’re struggling with this concept of discovery:

Create something… anything!
Use a magnifying glass on nature
Try a new recipe
Rearrange the furniture
Read a new author
Write a poem
Call someone and see what they are up to
Learn to kayak
Hike
Adopt a rescue animal
Take an online course
Create a photo book online
Learn something using YouTube
Schedule a Zoom Wine Tasting event with friends
Do something nice for someone
Find a way to do something you’ve wanted to do, but haven’t had time.

 

For all that we can’t do right now, the opportunities really are limitless for what we CAN do.

Then there is the whole spiritual aspect of discovery. Oddly, many people don’t really see that as a place for discovery. God is supposed to be unchanging so what is there to discover? One dose on Sunday morning and some prayers during the week doesn’t really count as much discovery. I know that this takes time and energy, but hear what Arthur Brooks wrote in an article in the Atlantic:

“… what if, instead of seeing your spiritual journey as an imposition on your scarce time and energy, you shift your mindset to see spiritual exploration as an adventure in and of itself? For millennia, one way seekers have done this is through pilgrimage.

The pandemic limits this kind of physical pilgrimage at the moment. However, the principle remains even if you don’t leave the house: Reframe your spiritual journey as a research project in which you are the human subject, a pilgrimage that could help you learn more about yourself, and about life itself.”

We prefer to focus outside ourselves, but there is so much to discover inside:

Who am I? 
Why do I respond so strongly when certain things happen?
What are my dreams?
What are my priorities?
What is my purpose?
Does my life have meaning?
What have I learned about myself during this pandemic?
What would l like to change about myself?
Why don’t I?
What holds me back?
How can I let this time help me grow?

During this exile we’re in, we have more time to think about these sorts of things than we ever have. So, ask yourself the deep challenging questions. Journal, ponder, read spiritual books, read scripture, pray, meditate, ponder some more, talk with someone about your thoughts.

There is truly nothing more rewarding than the inner journey. I’ve heard people say, “I’m not very deep.” I think that’s a cop out. Everyone has depth, it’s all about our willingness to explore it, to look below the surface of feelings and actions, to be willing to try to understand ourselves better instead of just acting or speaking or reacting.

Let’s see what we can discover during this time of exile so that someday we can look back and see that, while this was a difficult time, we used it well as a time of learning, wonder and growth.

Love & Light!

Kaye