A Crooked Line

There’s more than one answer to these questions
Pointing me in a crooked line
And the less I seek source my source for some definitive
The close I am to fine
-Emily Saliers

When I came to faith I was taught to live on the straight and narrow. I suppose that’s good advice since Jesus did say that. But what did he mean? Well, in the context in which I came to faith it was simple: Stay away from sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I don’t think that’s what he meant, nor do I want to attempt to break down what he meant here. I IMG_2068write today because while on a literal straight and narrow last week, I was confronted with that pesky “crooked line” Emily Sailers is talking about.

The irony of it all is that it took me several hours on a very long, very straight, and at times very narrow road to rediscover the idea that there are many answers to our questions that frustratingly point us in a crooked line. The last eight months have been hard on me personally. There is no single thing or person at fault, and if there is someone to blame, I suppose it’s me. Things kind of came to a head a couple weeks ago, and I found myself utterly exhausted. Thankfully, I am privileged enough that my life allowed me to take a week, shut it all off and hit the road.

So on a Sunday after church, with bags and bike packed, I did just that. I headed out on a quest for an answer to my exhaustion: South to IMG_2109through Iowa, on into Missouri, through Kansas City, and a stop for the night in the bustling town of Junction City, KS. Then I got up in the morning, spent most of the day traversing through Kansas, dipped into Oklahoma, teased the Texas border, nicked the southeastern corner of Colorado, and then crossed into New Mexico en route to see a good and wise friend in Albuquerque. All I had known about Albuquerque until then was that Walter White and Jesse Pinkman’s business started there and that Bugs Bunny was supposed to take a right there. The road West through Kansas was among the straightest and narrowest I’ve ever driven, and it was on that straight and narrow that I rediscovered the importance of the crooked line.

You see, the straight and narrow is actually too easy. It dictates your every move. It’s certain and predictable, you can “see for miles and miles and miles” (quoting yet another great song), you barely need to think, and Lord have mercy is it ever boring. This is not life. It’s maybe the life we sometimes feel like we want, so we can just set the cruise and mostly tune out, but this is not life. Just look to the round about way of liberation the Israelites took. Life is uncertain, unclear, dangerous, and crooked.

I went on a quest this week, hoping to find some answer to whatever it was that’s been weighing down my soul. I didn’t find an answer. Or maybe I found a bunch. Here’s what
I found:

Days One and Two:
I need to listen to the Indigo Girls more. Amy and Emily make great traveling companions. And when it comes to music that speaks to my spiritual self, they may be my first love. But for my own physical well being, it’s important that I sing along to Amy’s part, not Emily’s.

Day ThrIMG_2084ee: Friends who honor and love your deepest self, warts and all, are vitally important. I am blessed to have many of them. And it’s especially great when those friends also get baseball like you do. Thanks for taking me in, Skip, Susan, and Teo. You took in all of me: My body as well as my heart, mind, and soul. Go Isotopes.

Day Four: The crooked line- that is, the unpredictable and annoying one- calls you to things, and calls things out of you, that you didn’t know were there. You can plan toIMG_2086 ride up to Sandia Crest, but it turns out that this day that side of the mountain was just 65 degrees and buried in clouds. So you go back to the other side (a mere 25 miles away) where it’s 90 and sunny and you hike up the other side instead. 9.7 miles, 2,900 feet, and an infinite sea of thoughts later, and you see that the unpredictability of the crooked line is where life is.

Day Five: 75 and sunny on the other side of the mountain today. So 4,000 feet up to IMG_2113Sandia Crest, I went, completing the most challenging climb of my life. But it wouldn’t be the most challenging part of my day. That came later, sitting on Skip and Susan’s patio allowing them to speak into my life. It’s hard. It’s scary. But you need to find those people. Let people you trust speak into your life. Let them in, way in. You need them.

Days 6 & 7: The road is your friend. It forces you to cut everything off and be presentIMG_2122 to you. Don’t default to the quick and easy fix. You can’t take off on road trips like this whenever you’re stressed, but you can find practices that slow yourself and force you to come present to your whole self: The joy and the pain that coexist within you, that when you allow them to work together, point you in a crooked line. Also, Trevor is good at brewing beer. If you’re ever near Indianola, IA, head to the Zoo Bar and give one of the Into Brews a taste. Without the road, I wouldn’t have gotten there. Jesus turned water into wine. His disciples turn water into beer.

An answer? There is no real answer, I guess. Just maybe, hey, stop trying to crush the earth around you by excavating a straight and narrow path, and slow down and come present to yourself. The world is wild these days. It is- as I often preach- anxious, uncertain, and tired. And in it we all have a black hole’s worth of questions, hoping that somewhere we’ll find the answer. But there’s more than one answer to these questions, pointing you in a crooked line.

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45 Seconds of Stillness on the Pino Trail
(I stopped here for several minutes hiking the Pino Trail near Albuquerque. The video’s not great, but it captures a little bit of the song of stillness the mountains were playing for me.)