The man listened as I unloaded on him. I’m still having a hard time with my friend, the Mountain Man’s death, and with the permanence of the separation. As we talked, the tears came again and my frustration showed through. It’s not that I don’t know how life (and death) works. I simply want it to work differently. I won’t bore you with the details of the conversation, but this particular man (whom I’ve known for many years) is gifted at putting things in perspective. He didn’t lie to me, but he was kind enough to leave me, along with the harsh reality, a ray of hope. I’ll take it. I knew it was there all along, but like so many of us, I tend to focus on the minutiae, and not the big picture.
I’m not sure why I do that. I find myself disturbed continually by having to live in the moment, without any glimmer of knowledge of future events. I understand completely the consternation of the ancient explorers, who worked with incomplete maps, the borders of which left one to wonder what came next. Supposedly, it wasn’t uncommon to see the text written on the margins of these maps which warned, “Beyond this place, there be dragons!” It is easy to imagine the worst when we simply have no idea what to expect. When the world was assumed to be flat, one never knew if they would fall off the edge of the planet if they ventured out past the known terrain. Like the ancient pathfinders, I don’t enjoy having to put one foot timidly in front of the other, feeling for the pathway in the fog and darkness. I desire clarity and illumination. It doesn’t always come.
I appreciated the talk with my friend. He helped to give me a sense of scope. But, right before he left, he also gave me a glimpse of his own burden, as he talked about an unusual affliction with which his wife is struggling right now. He told of doctors and tests, absurd recommendations by a doctor or two and a friend or two, and an upcoming appointment at a well-respected clinic. He related his sense of helplessness and frustration, and his tears. And, as he talked, I realized that this also is part of the bigger picture. There are dragons beyond the borders of the terrain with which I’m familiar. It was my turn to offer comfort and promises of prayer. As the bigger picture comes into focus, I realize that we require help from each other to face the unknown, the mysterious and uncharted. I’m not the only one who cries, not the only one who has questions. But you know, I also realize something else. The further I go, the more I find that I am content with the companions I’ve met along the way. I’m in good company.
Now, as to the road map…I’m still trying to figure it out. On my recent trip to the big city of Los Angeles, I used my smart phone as an aid to finding my way around. It worked passably, but there was a good bit of frustration at the limitations. I found that I could either have a detailed map which covered a very small area in scope, or I could have a big picture view of where I was headed without the kind of detail my brain needed to navigate comfortably. I got by, but I really missed the Lovely Lady sitting by my side with the huge paper map spread out over her lap, telling me, “Now, you’re going to pass Disneyland in just a moment and then we’ll come to the Chapman Exit a little past that. Get off there!” The simple fact is that we work better when we have others to help read the roadsigns and the instructions.
Yes, companionship has its pitfalls. We get to live with someone else’s dragons, we have to work through personality conflicts. We could even have the sorrow of losing that companion to look forward to. But, I’m confident that the rewards of the fellowship far outweigh the dark clouds that hover on the horizon and may never darken our sky. It is a fine way to travel as we pass through this world.
I’m trying to look a little more at the Big Picture and I’m getting some help with reading the Map. I hope that you will also find a trustworthy traveling companion or two as you wander the path you’re on. Who knows? I might even be able to help decipher a mile or two of your road for you. I know you’d do the same for me.
Just watch out for those dragons!
“Two people are better off than one, because together, they can help each other to succeed.”
“Digital clocks are…an infinite succession of “You Are Here” arrows, but nary a map.”
(from “The Song of Albion”~Stephen Lawhead~American author)