October 13, 2009
In Honor of Christopher Columbus
The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
Today is Columbus Day and in honor of this complex historical figure I would like to reflect on the subjects of maps and courageous journeys. Even though others had travelled to the Americas before Columbus, his four separate voyages to the Americas are what opened up connections between Europe and this part of the world. Can you imagine what it must have been like to set off from the Canary Islands off of Northwest Africa in 1492, with primitive maps and compasses, not really having any idea of how far you were sailing to reach your destination (and thus not knowing if your water and food supplies would last)? At 2:00 AM, on October 12, 1492, Columbus' crew first spotted land in what is now the Bahamas. It took them five weeks to make their first journey.
I love maps. I can spend hours going through an Atlas and looking at maps of various parts of the world. Whether it's driving through downtown Chicago, or canoeing in remote parts of Canada, I can trust my map to assist me in my journey. I am grateful for the "explorers" who have gone before me to map the places where I travel. The journey is still mine, and is always unique, but the one thing I have never had to do as part of any journey I have taken is create my own map.
There are, however, other kinds of journeys in life where we will not be able to find maps already created for us. These journeys involve the emotional, spiritual and relational dimensions of our lives. They are the journeys we call "parenthood," "marriage," "faith," "mid-life," "retirement," etc. My work as a coach and therapist always involves assisting someone who is in some way "stuck" on their journey. They often feel lost and don't know which way to turn. Our task at that point becomes clear: we need to create a map together and choose which direction to move.
Whether we are intentionally working with a guide for our journey, I believe that all of us are making maps for our lives on a regular basis. Anytime we set a goal for growth or change, it's as if we are drawing up a map with an "I am currently here" dot on it, along with a "this is where I want to be" dot that describes the destination/change we wish to reach. After we have "mapped" our journey of growth and change, now we need to decide on the route that will best take us there. We also will need to plan for supplies we will need, and what other people (spouse, friend, guide, community of support) we need to invite to join us on our journey. Because our unique journey of change has never happened before, there are no previous maps that exist to direct us. Like Columbus, we are exploring new territory, with a sense of what direction we need to travel, but not knowing just how long the journey will take.
Perhaps one of the following situations describes you, or someone you love: a teenager who got off track due to drugs or alcohol and is ready to turn their life around; a marriage that is distant and wanting to find so new life; entering retirement and not sure what to "do" now; out of work because of the economy and having to develop a new career path; your spiritual life is suddenly empty and dry, and doing what you have always done doesn't work any more; recently diagnosed with an illness that means that all previous maps for the future are suddenly out of date. All of us at times need to be intentional about making new maps for change and growth in our life. May we be inspired in our efforts by the courageous map makers and travelers who have gone on before us.