Once upon a time, I was a little girl, and that little girl had the attention span of a sphinx. I would get seriously, eternally lost in books, daydreams, and the stories and songs which soundtracked my inner mind. Fire, flood, and dinner time had no impact, no entrance into my trance state.
Sometimes, I wish I could still go there, that interior world where nothing distracts or disturbs. But there was that one time when going off on my own, with no heed to the realities of this life, almost killed me.
We were walking out on a summer’s day near Whitsuntide. We were on the coastal path in west Wales near St David’s, a beautiful place full of wonder and beauty, but I was not there. Skipping ahead, I was lost again in my own thoughts, my own world, my own head.
As if from far away somehow the alarm came through, all three of them shouting my name in unison, mother, father, brother, then, “STOP!”
I paused, bewildered, shaken out of the waking sleep of a daydream. I looked up and saw the sky, and seagulls wheeling. I looked down, and saw the rocks below. My foot gripped the ground an inch from the cliff edge.
Behind me, the path turned ninety degrees around a bluff. I had not.
My ashen faced family waited for me to return.
Repentance is sometimes described as a change in direction, a turning around. Frederick Buechner calls it “coming to your senses.” (Buechner, Wishful thinking: a seeker’s abc, HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), 96). It means finding reality in the midst of illusion, delusion, denial, grappling with the reality of God in the surreality of life. Sometimes, it takes others to call us back from the brink. If we will only pay them some attention, instead of getting lost each in our own, infinite little worlds.
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