What a long, strange trip it’s been

Recently, I got a notice in the mail informing me of my 25th college reunion in Oregon. I don’t plan to attend; it’s expensive, and I know from the experience of past reunions that the people who do attend aren’t people I ever hung out with in college anyway. But the notice has got me to thinking about, as the Grateful Dead used to say, what a long, strange trip it’s been.

When I graduated from college with a degree in history, I frankly had no idea what I wanted to do. So, I immediately put my degree to use by working at a video store. (Oddly enough, renowned historical Jesus scholar Marcus Borg was a regular customer at that store; I guess even then the seeds of my future were being sown.) I used to wonder about my future. What exactly would I be doing ten years down the road? Twenty? Thirty?

I had a lot of theories then. But if anyone had told me that I would be a teacher of something called A Course in Miracles, living in Atlanta, Georgia and working as a CNA doing home care for elderly people, I would have told them they were completely nuts. Who could have seen that coming? I sure didn’t.

This has got me thinking about just how topsy-turvy life can become when you turn your life over to the Holy Spirit’s plan. I think many of us have the impression that when we do that, our life will be essentially the same as it was before, though perhaps with spirituality as a new hobby. My own experience and the experience of those I’ve counseled, however, tell a very different story. When you really turn your life over to the plan, to paraphrase that famous line from the movie All About Eve: Fasten your seat belt; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Robert likes to call this phenomenon the roller coaster. And that is what it feels like. Maybe the changes in your life aren’t that extreme at first. But eventually you start careening down the track, and your life is never the same. The plan touches literally everything. It will take you places you never thought you’d go, make you do things you never thought you’d do, call you to face things you never thought you’d face. It’s the ultimate total makeover.

And just when you think you have it figured out, it surprises you yet again. For instance, just in the last couple of weeks, I received a new piece of what feels like guidance: I may be called to go back to school to become a nurse.

I’m not sure exactly how I can make this work. I can do it in about two years, but where will the funds to pay for school come from? How can I go to school and work full time at the same time? What impact does this have on my Circle work? I really don’t know. But I feel a strong pull to move in this direction, so this week I applied to two local nursing schools. We will see…

I’ve probably made this “following God’s plan” stuff sound really scary and grim, so let me end on a positive note. The fact is that it can be scary sometimes, but it also brings a joy that truly nothing else in the world can bring. I am grateful every day for the glorious new horizons I have encountered by following the path God has laid out for me. It sure beats punching the clock for fifty years and getting a gold watch (though there’s nothing wrong with that if your job is truly your calling).

I can only hope that my fellow members of the Willamette University Class of 1985 have experienced even a small measure of the priceless gifts, deeply meaningful purpose, and unexpected joy that I have. It has been a long, strange trip, but there’s no more glorious road to travel than the road to Heaven.