I was looking forward to college graduation until my boyfriend of six years dumped me a month before graduation. The breakup derailed me. So I decided to move from Los Angeles to Portland alone. I had an old pen pal who agreed to let me crash in a corner of her studio apartment. In a new city, I could be whoever I wanted. The problem was, I didn’t know who I was anymore.
I had plans, and now, I had no idea what to do next. I had agreed to a job that had nothing to do with the degree I just earned, and it was clear, had no growth in its future. I drank too much. I dated men I would have never dated in my old life. Instead of finding a match that was better than the last, I settled for the comfort of not being alone. But I knew I had to find something healthy for me in this new life. I was too angry to go back to church on Sundays. I decided to hike instead.
Each Sunday, I would take this city girl out to the Columbia Gorge to hike the lush green trails dotted with waterfalls. I explored new turns until my enchantment turned to loneliness, and I wished I had someone to share it with. The volume of my internal dialogue was deafening, until one Sunday I realized I was talking to God.
These prayers, which consisted of yelling at God about my derailed plans, were similar to the psalms of lament. One Sunday, about a mile into the hike, I felt such loneliness it physically hurt. I looked at the trail sign wondering whether I should just hike back to the car when someone tugged at my sleeve.
“Are you coming or going?” He said teasing. I had been so deep in thought I hadn’t heard another hiker come up behind me.
Begrudgingly I answered, “I’m coming.”
I followed behind him quietly for the next five minutes. He was in far better shape than me but slowed down to meet my pace and began to chat. I was thankful for the company as we chatted about the trails in the area. We passed a couple miles that way, and when we stopped to refuel, it was clear we were hiking together. As we turned back it occurred to me that I should have been more cautious. I should have been concerned about going deeper into the woods with some man I didn’t know, but my street-smart-city-girl alarms had never gone off.
“It was great to have company today,” he said shaking my hand. “By the way, my name is Peter. See you around.”
I just stood there as he walked away.
No numbers exchanged. I didn’t even tell him my name.
C.S. Lewis writes, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
I felt like God gave me a Band-Aid that day to temporarily fix what I thought was wrong. Now that I had a day of company, I could see the big picture. I was settling. I settled in the life I planned with my ex, who never wanted to marry me, yet I waited for six years. I was settling now as I wallowed in my self-pity. God had a better life waiting for me. I had been too easily pleased.
Stunned, I started my car and said a quiet prayer, not an angry one this time, but a meek one.
OK God, where to next?