I always enjoyed hiking when I was younger but never really backpacked until I entered university. There, nestled in the lower Appalachian Mountains, I began to enjoy a lot of outdoor activities not really available to me in Ohio where I grew up. I live in a place now where it can happen frequently and I’m pretty excited to get out and explore more of this great place. Perhaps the Gobi this summer…..
During my Junior year of university, I went on a failed trip with my then girlfriend (now my Iris) and Mike, a really good friend of mine. We had plans of meeting up with two of our other friends as they planned on showing up later due to a soccer game. We had some plans, but not great ones and we never did meet up with them. Two injuries, lack of water and fear of where our friends were, we decided to cut the trip a day early and find a shortcut back.
The boots I purchased weren’t broken in (a rookie mistake) and therefore I had massive broken blisters on both my heels as well as on the ball of one of my feet. Iris, who had torn her meniscus earlier that volleyball season, was in pain with almost every step. I was slowing down and lagging behind. Mike and Iris were talking and hiking and were getting ahead of me. After a few minutes or so, I rounded a bend in the trail and they were gone. I continued on, trying to listen for their voices, and figured that I would catch up to them at some point. Then, I came to a fork in the trail. Neither this new trail nor the trail I was on was marked and I had no idea which one to take.
I paused for a minute, straining to hear their voices, but heard nothing other than my imagination putting their voices in my head. I kept going on the slightly more well worn path and began yelling their names. About 10 minutes later, I heard them shout back and I yelled “WAIT!” I caught up to them, but out of embarrassment, never said anything to them about my fear that I was lost in the Great Smokey Mountains, thirsty and hurting. We stopped for a bit, ate some gorp and regrouped as we tried to figure out how to get out. A couple hours later, we were able to get to a store by a road and hitchhiked back to our car. It was one for the story books, but needless to say, we’re a bit more prepared now.
Walter Bruggerman has observed that we as followers of Jesus, go through three phases in our lifetimes. These three phases are cyclical and can repeat numerous times throughout our time on this earth. He writes “each of God’s children is in transit along the flow of Orientation, Disorientation, and Reorientation.” I’ve gone through these three a few times and am in the middle of it now. But what do they mean?
When we first come to a point of acknowledging and accepting God’s forgiveness and begin to follow Him, we are orienting our life towards Him. We begin to head in a direction, a path, towards Him and what we believe is His will for our lives. But then, if we are seriously following and submitting to Him, there will come a time of complete disorientation. Getting laid off, Him asking you to quit your job, a sudden illness, the death of a spouse or child, burnout, the acknowledgement of an addiction, retirement, the birth of a child, and the list goes on. We wonder what in the world is going on. It may feel like you are walking through the stages of hell and even wondering why God is silent. Job went through this. David, Jesus, Moses, Peter, Paul, William Carey and Elizabeth Elliot just to name a few.
It’s in the disorientation that we begin to understand a deeper meaning of grace. A deeper plane of compassion, sacrifice, wisdom, kindness and joy. It’s in these times where things are stripped away so that all we have to run to is God and nothing else. When the ice begins to thaw from the unknowing, from the harsh winter of what we thought was normality, we can begin to reorient ourselves to where God was the entire time and begin moving forward in a more right direction than we were prior. Their can be no reorientation without the disorientation. The reorientation is incredible…but the pathway of pain has to be walked in order for the peace to come.
From walking the path we thought we always would, to becoming lost and not knowing where to go, to being back in community, God has us walk this cycle as we are in transit. Ah, transit…that’s for another day. So, where are you? If it’s orientation, be ever thankful that you have found new life in Him. If in disorientation, be ever thankful because without this, you will not become the person you will be on the other side…and that is someone I would like to meet. And if in reorientation, be ever thankful for God’s enduring patience and promise to never leave you.
Have you experienced these three phases? What was your experience? Where are you right now at this moment? Sharing your journey helps in walking through the pain and encourages others to continue on. Please share your thoughts, experiences and emotions, and thanks for continuing on.