By William McConnell
When I was a child, my family took frequent weekend trips from Charlotte to visit longtime friends in Lemon Springs, North Carolina. Lemon Springs was (and is) barely more than a dot on a map and a wide spot on the road, but my sister and I knew every traffic light, turn, ice cream shop and landmark along the way. It took two hours and 15 minutes to make the trip. (Two hours and 30 minutes if we stopped for ice cream in Biscoe.) We knew exactly where we were starting and exactly when we should arrive. But regardless, there would still be the questions from the back seat, “Are we there yet?” “Five more minutes” was usually the reply. (Some of those five minutes were awfully long!)
As we approach month 19 of a global pandemic that has upended virtually everything we thought we knew, we find ourselves asking the same question. “Are we there yet?” Unfortunately, there are two problems with that question. We don’t know where “there” is, and if we are completely honest with ourselves, we aren’t entirely sure where “here” is, either.
Recently, I was fortunate to participate in a deeply insightful workshop by Susan Beaumont, author of the book “How to Lead When You Don’t Know Where You Are Going.” In our time together, Susan led participants in exploring liminal space – that in-between time when organizations have chosen or been forced to leave their comfort zones, but when they haven’t yet arrived at their new reality. She clearly and poignantly reminded us that the pathway from “here” to “there” through liminal space is not now, and has never been, direct. Among her many salient points was an underlying question, “Can we really know where we are going if we don’t know where we are?” We probably knew where we were on March 12, 2020, the day before our worlds shut down. But on March 13, 2020, the upheaval of a national shutdown disrupted our foundations to the point that we don’t even know where “here” is anymore.
How do we move forward? How do we find “here” and begin to define “there”? How can we know if we are there yet?
God has given us resources to help us redefine our “here” so that we can begin to see a path to our “there.” Hymns, songs, Scriptures, prayers, spiritual practices and locations that were anchors before March 2020 are still available to us. Even though the ground under our feet has shifted, our internal anchors – our solid rocks – are still intact.
What are our anchors? What are the gifts we have received through our lives, and even through these past 19 months, that we can give back to ourselves and to those around us that reorient us to our new “here?”
Are we there yet? Probably not by a long shot. But can we begin to answer, “Have we found here yet?” Here’s hoping and praying that we are on that path.
As a musician who finds great comfort and strength in the congregational songs of the church, I often find my anchor in hymns, both old and new. One of many I learned in childhood that still provides stability and comfort:
When darkness seems to hide his face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
in every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand.
(“My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” – Text by Edward Mote c. 1834 Public Domain) Glory to God #353
William McConnell, CFRE, is a Mission Engagement Advisor for the Presbyterian Mission Agency serving the Central region of the United States.