Both the church I work for and the monastery where I am staying on retreat this week have those motion sensor lights in the hallways. You know, the kind that mostly stay off to preserve energy but then come on when they detect someone walking. They are an awesome concept but the thing I have noticed is they don’t always work right away. You enter the hallway and it’s pitch dark. So you stand still. Nothing. Maybe you wave an arm. Still nothing. The only thing you can do is to start walking forward. Then the lights come on.
There’s a lot in the world that is uncertain right now. And personally, there are a lot of decisions that I’m needing to make. Yesterday I was in an anxiety spiral trying to figure things out. I could do this or I could do this. I could try this. If this thing happens then maybe I could do this thing but if it doesn’t then this other thing might not work out. You know the loop. You sit there with a calculator trying to figure out how you’re going to make the money stretch, plugging in variables and making up unknown figures. Or you make your list of pros and cons and stare at it hoping that all will become clear.
At some point, you just need to start walking.
To stretch the metaphor a little further: This isn’t saying walk into a strange and falling down building with no lights on and just waltz your way in. That’s a way to end up the victim of a horror movie. You don’t want to just run toward uncertainty when there are concrete things you could do to figure things out or to at least have more information. It does no good to run into that abandoned house without lights when you’ve got a big ol flashlight in the trunk of your car that you were just too lazy to get.
The thing with the church building and the monastery is that I know these hallways. I know the lights work and will eventually come on. I know that if I just start walking forward that soon I’ll be able to see. Now, could someone have left something in the hallway that will cause me to trip? Sure. Might one of the bulbs be burned out and so I have to walk a littler farther than usual? Possibly. But it doesn’t change the fact that moving forward is still my best option. Standing still in the doorway refusing to walk isn’t going to do me any good. Worrying about the very slim chance that someone put a box directly in my way isn’t a good use of my emotional resources. I just need to walk.
Sometimes you’ve gathered all of the information you can. You’ve searched your heart. You’ve separated out real fear from fake fear. You know what you need to do even if you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. That’s the time when you need to just walk.
We walk trusting that the lights will come on. We walk trusting that if we start on the path the resources we need will be made available to us.
We take the next step. Then the next. We don’t have to jump from one end of the hallway to the other. We don’t have to run. We just need to take the next step.
Both in our personal lives when making decisions about what the next step is in a relationship or where to move or what job to look for and in the larger issues that face the world; climate change, education, the refugee crisis, the best thing we can do is to take the next step.
Maybe you need more education on an issue so you pick up some books. Maybe you need to go to an organizational meeting. Maybe you need to go to a protest. Maybe you need to donate some money or make a phone call or run for office or get on city council. Maybe you need to talk to your neighbors.
Whatever it is, just take the next step. Then the step after that. The key thing is to keep moving forward. Because the thing about those motion activated lights? If you stay still too long the light goes off and you’re left in the dark again. So keep moving forward. We’re in this together and we’ll have what we need when we need it.