As a teenager, I knew I was destined to do something great in the world. I knew with all the passion and surety in me that Heavenly Father had something for me to do, and that something, I told myself, would occur in the context of paid work, of a Career. But I wasn’t sure what career or field I should pursue. I had a lot of varied interests and talents, so I looked forward to my patriarchal blessing telling me where my avenue
of influence would be. I was completely devastated, when, upon receiving my blessing, it mentioned nothing about a career, nothing about what I should study. As Thorin, the dwarf, said in The Hobbit, “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something . . . You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
This is a repeated theme in life in general, I think. I’m experiencing it again right now. We moved to Utah this summer so that I could teach at BYU, hopefully in a tenure track position when our youngest 2 are a little older. So far, though, what I was looking for in the move has not materialized. I’m wondering what the “something” is that I’m going to find—the something that may not quite be the something I was after.
I trust it will be good, though, just as the blessings of church service and motherhood have been, which is the “something” I found in my patriarchal blessing years ago when I did not find mention of my career. In hindsight, I think Heavenly Father knew I had enough drive and focus in me to take care of the career part myself, but that I needed Him to place the emphasis on what was eternally important and what I was destined to do that was great in His kingdom.
One of my favorite poems when I was in college was Edward Hirsch’s “For the Sleepwalkers”:
Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible
arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.
I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,
palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.
And always they wake up as themselves again.
That’s why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.
Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music
of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests.
We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds
and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.
I love this poem partly because of its imagery (to “know it is morning by feeling shadows,” for example) but also because of the message that I took from it about having faith in what you find in life—more faith in God, more faith to follow that “invisible arrow” leading us to choices that we feel in our hearts are right, more faith in ourselves and in our legs, to take that next step, to make that change, to do what we think we might not be able to do. I love the idea that our hearts, were they independent of our bodies, would soak up everything good that they could and would close around those things tightly and bring them back to our bodies to experience. And I like the description of faith as “desperate,” because sometimes it really is. Finally, I like Hirsch’s ending thought–that taking a risk, that holding onto that faith so desperately a
nd acting on it, has nourishing and surprising rewards, one of which is that we “wake up” to who we really are, we wake up to ourselves.
So tell me about “something” you’ve found that might not quite have been the something you were after. Tell me about the nourishing and surprising rewards of your own “sleepwalking” endeavors.
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