Here is something I have experienced to be true. The journey we imagine never ends up being the journey we take. Stuff happens. We may wish it didn’t or be grateful it did. Either way, the journey we take is never wholly the one we imagine or plan.
This is either a really fun idea or slightly terrifying, because we just never know what is going to unfold when we put our feet to the path. Four short weeks ago I undertook my morning walk out to the henhouse with water and feed. Here in Massachusetts, Spring was only still a rumor and my feet flew out from under me in on the icy path. Which no matter how likely a possibility you know it to be when you step out onto it, can’t help astonish a person in the moment of it actually happening.
You just never know what will happen when you begin. Which is why I often find myself powerfully moved by watching someone embark upon a journey into the unknown.
I recall a number of September mornings when Clare and I sat in the car watching our son slowly make his way into the school building on the first day of the new academic year. While he has always loved learning, he never experienced school as setting hospitable to his passion for discovery and growth, and so would embark on that very long journey from the car (from summer really) trudging reluctantly to the school’s front door. While there were surely good things, important experiences for him during his years there, we always had the sense that he felt he was hitting the mute button on his life during these long months. Because of this we would always think, “God love him, he’s being really brave right now.”
The decision to begin in the face of uncertainty is entirely consequential and often quite brave.
And not just around the journeys the we fully anticipate will be difficult. It also takes nerve to step unreservedly toward a well-polished dream, deferred protectively against the possibility of it delivering disappointment instead of fulfillment. Or toward the possibility of love once our hearts have been broken once or twice. Or to show up in our community or organization or even our home after a boneheaded mistake or well-publicized failure. Or to genuinely take responsibility and seek to make amends for a hurt that we have caused. Or to leave home for the first time to a place far away, even when we want to go there. Or to leave a secure job for new work we feel called to do. It is brave, I think, to ask for help when we’ve gotten ourselves in over our heads. Or try to end an unhealthy habit or destructive relationship. Or seek (again) to begin a new habit. Or to ask the unpopular question, or hold your ground in the face of an injustice. Or to admit you’re wrong and change your mind. To risk learning and growing in front of the world around you.
Each of these journeys requires courage to begin. Because the journey we imagine never ends up being the journey we take. Things happen. Our beginnings simply don’t come with guarantees. Except perhaps this: that we are likely to find our way to greater alignment with our best selves. Just by deciding and beginning.
How about you? What journey do you feel called to begin? Which path is it time for you to begin to walk?
Courage to you, friend. And bread for your journey.