Humans are ingenious at devising means for measuring: devices that provide information, feedback and assessment of various conditions. A sphygmomanometer (no wonder they refer to it as “the cuff”) provides an immediate read on our blood pressure, a thermometer provides information on our temperature and a stethoscope amplifies internal signals offering insight into lung and heart functions. They provide information for drawing conclusions.
Some of the devices we create defy the drawing of conclusions or for that matter, any direction at all. Take for instance the weight scales found in the (our) family bathroom. Even with improved measuring techniques, it is almost impossible to gain conclusions from this “feedback” devise. I have discovered that there is no correspondence (in the short term) with the weight indicated and the food I consume. I can eat a cookie (or two) one day and the next day I weigh less. (I could draw the conclusion that a solid cookie diet would be beneficial.) On another day, I have a salad, protein shake with a negative calorie count, and the following morning the scales inform me that I gained a pound. So much for helpful, immediate and clear feedback...
“Time Outs” in life often leave us “directionless,” with no reference points to guide or compass by which to find our way. Wilderness journeys sometimes offer few reference points, and some markers that appear substantial are mirages, phantoms of heat waves rising from the ground. In the wilderness, we learn to rely on that spiritual “inner ear” to discover balance when the indicators around us are misleading. In the barren moments of our lives, in the midst of sorrow, uncertainty, failures and fears prayer and quiet, stillness and song offer internal reference points.
I remember as a child driving through curvy mountain roads and getting carsick. My inner ear could not accommodate the difference between what my eyes registered and what my body was feeling. My mom’s advice was to either look far way at something not moving (like the distant mountain) or to close my eyes. I was amazed at the rather immediate relief when I closed my eyes. In our wilderness moments, there are times when our senses are on overload. We need to close our eyes, reduce the distractions and the overload of “feedback” in order to regain balance and perspective.
Throughout our Lenten wanderings, I invite you to close your eyes or to look beyond the rush of scenery to the hills that rise above at the present moment and discover the peace of the companion Spirit that will meet you there.
Pastor Mark Ulrickson