Have you ever entered a cave and gone deep enough to lose all light to pitch black when you turn off the headlamp, where the air is utterly still, sound ceases, the only way forward is on hands and knees, the only guidance is by tentative touch? I have. It’s perhaps the closest one can come to a disquieting sense of emptiness, nothingness, oblivion.
For some of us, this may be the season of our inner world as we ring in the new year. Some ring it in with joy and anticipation, even excitement. Others ring it in with a sense of defeat and foreboding, even dread.
If I’m honest, I don’t know where I’m going this year. I don’t know what’s ahead. I used to dream but now it’s a black canvas, like waking up and immediately forgetting a sleeping vision. I don’t have many plans or goals, I don’t know if I care about success or being known. I am content to hide, for now. I know that no matter my resolutions, my life will may stay essentially the same. I will do what I love outside in the forests and mountains; I will write (mainly for myself); I will read; I will spend time alone, a little with close friends, and family when I see them; I will take a few trips here and there. And I will have the same doubts and questions. I will be just as unsure of myself and what I believe. I will have no hold on truth. I will surrender to the darkness of this season, following the voice that guides me through this disorienting, pitch black cave. It says: “Further. Further still.”
And there it is. These are the words for this year (and maybe for yours too), the phrase I’ve heard for months (or is it over a year now?), the only answer I’ve received in my leaving. They don’t bring a solution or solve a mystery; they don’t answer questions or bring certainty. But somehow, the words calm my heart in a way I can’t explain. They bring a flood of emotion because they authenticate a season–my season (and maybe your season). When I question myself and my motives and my heart and my faith (sometimes constantly), God doesn’t attempt to correct me or corral me back to what I’m leaving behind. Surprisingly, he leads me further on, further still.
I say: “I don’t know if I can go much further. I’m afraid of where I’ll end up. Should I turn back? How much more must I leave? How much further must I go?” I hear: “Further. Further still.”
Maybe you’re hearing these words too. If so, you won’t be able to shake them. They come from outside us, into us, full of peace and comfort, with empathy and understanding. They originate from a sense, a source, of being seen and known. While they are validating, they are also terrifying. Just as we might want to turn around, we’re asked to go deeper, move further.
These are the words I (we) can hold on to for dear life as I (we) enter this new year, in the same season, asking the same question: “How much further?”
“Further. Further still.”
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