Sep 6, 2009

Walking Backward

I left Kansas in 1981 with all my essential possessions crammed in the back of my 1970's, sun-oxidized silver Toyota Celica. Heading for Texas, I left my books, much-loved stuffed animals and assorted memorabilia to gather dust in my 1960's groovy lime green and navy blue room. Driving away from my Mother and the house in which I'd grown up was nearly the hardest thing I had done up to that point in my life, but I had to move out and try to separate from the pain of the past. I had to make a fresh start and I desperately prayed that I was leaving Kansas forever.Regardless of that prayer, Kansas has never let me fully leave. It sticks to the story of my life like a piece of spinach in my teeth. Kansas; with its Dorothy & Toto jokes, supposedly flat nothingness and "flyover state" status. I even met a woman who remarked that "everyone she's met from Kansas was so backward!" And she was from Lubbock. But more than the cultural labels that Kansans counter with farmer-like quiet dignity, the pain of bad choices, mine and others, remained to follow me from that great state of buffalo and sunflowers. Kansas has just meant pain.Ever since leaving, I have been on a journey to overcome and be set free from the Kansas I saw in my past, but no more so than over the past two years. Part of this desert experience has been about going backward into that pain and watching Jesus pick up each memory and, in ways only He could pull off, begin to heal and redeem. He's used the book my sister wrote of her journey back through Kansas to put the pieces of her fragmented childhood together. He's used Facebook to reconnect me with friends from the high school I bailed on my Junior year and the other high school I barely graduated from. I realize as I write this, these steps leading to memory after memory, some long forgotten, some unforgettable, are through the mountains I saw off in the distance last year as I stood in this spiritual desert, having just sat my behind next to a rock for about a year. I knew eventually that through these shadowed mountains was the path that led out of this place I'd grown to love.

I read recently that some cultures believe we look to the past we can see and have our backs to the future we cannot see; that we walk backward into what's next. I've been walking backward, with my eyes viewing what's past and with each step of healing, I've seen Kansas grow more and more beautiful, and can honestly say that I am grateful for every moment of my life there. Even the horrible, terrible moments were steps that brought me to this place with this Jesus. I have many more steps to trace over, with countless moments of pain to relive, but I'm ready.

Ready to go again, backward.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.~ TS Eliot ~

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