Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked… – 2 Corinthians 11:25-27
Today is the last day of April and we’re already a third of the way through 2019. So I’d like to thank all the readers who have given me – thus far – more than 40,000 reasons to keep posting these words of “Light, Grace, Invitation & Promise.”
April has been busy to the extreme, and loaded with challenges that have made it next to impossible to settle into any kind of writing rhythm. I have two book-length projects that need my complete concentration and it just isn’t happening.
But then – and this is the point of today’s post – it’s also true that most meaningful stories emerge out of interruptions and disruptions to our otherwise neatly planned lives.
“Lions and Tigers and Bears…”
This was made clear to me yesterday when I was talking with my parents about my experience hiking the Appalachian Trail. They wanted to know if I had run into any animals in the woods.
“Well there was the black bear who sniffed around one night looking for food,” I said. “I saw his silhouette lumber up then he pushed his nose against the side of the tent. I could smell his breath. He stayed about five minutes and I was literally petrified – couldn’t move a muscle.”
Of course we ran into deer, raccoons, possums, snakes and a host of other critters, plus we saw more bears in the daytime. But probably the most startling animal-related experience was up in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah National Park.
I had picked up some trash on the trail and came across one of those “secure” garbage cans with the heavy, self-closing, steel opening – kind of like a mail-drop. The trash can was literally labeled “bear and raccoon proof.”
So I walked up to the can and opened it to deposit my trash. That’s when the raccoon – a large specimen – who had been inside, waiting for someone to let it out, seized the moment. It burst out of the can then ran up my arm, over my head, and down my back.
I turned, incredulous, to track the animal’s progress. The raccoon stopped, looked at me, and started to chatter angrily, launching a stream of invective (what I could only understand to be strong raccoon-profanity) before running off into the trees.
There were many other memorable experiences on that hike: the torrential rains and consequent flash flood, the hailstorm, the incident with the skunk, the lost hiker, the “all-you-can-eat” buffet that wasn’t, … I could fill a book.
But – and here’s what’s important – I have little to no memory of the stuff that went according to plan.
Interruption and Learning:
You see when everything runs smoothly we don’t grow, we don’t learn, and we don’t have anything to share later. Believe me, I didn’t want to have a bear stick his nose under the edge of my tent, or experience a raccoon running over my face, or get caught in a hailstorm the size of golf balls (and the occasional tennis ball).
But if I hadn’t then they wouldn’t be the great stories they are today!
I can moan all I like about having no time to concentrate on my next book. Fair enough. But if my life wasn’t this constant experience of disruption, interruption, crisis-management and innovation then that next book (if it ever gets written) would hardly be worth the read.
So okay then, maybe I’ll pray for a compromise here. “Dear Lord, thanks for all these “experiences” that continue to define my life. But please give me some time to jot a couple of them down before the next one…. Amen.”
Till the next Great Adventure – DEREK