Monday, February 28, 2011

One Step

Overwhelming--I often hear that word and even more often say it when faced with what seem to be impossible tasks. Occasionally I watch a TV show about people who suffer from compulsive hoarding tendencies or who are long neglectful of day to day clean-up. All have reached a point where the clutter or hoarded items become impossible to deal with. Too much. Overwhelming. Unfixable.

Yet, I know there is a way through this. This ordinary saying rings in my head when I look at what seems like an impossible task in front of me: "The journey of thousand miles begins with a single step."

The origination of the statement is variously attributed to Confucius and to Lao-tzu. It was probably floating around long before either of them wrote or spoke it.  It's a piece of common wisdom--like "One day at a time."  

A single step. Not one thing will get done without taking that first single step.  

Last week, I surveyed my yard and garden with significant dismay. Family and health issues, a lingering sadness over my mother's death, all coupled with work pressures and a need to finish a major writing project meant that I never cleaned up the yard or garden last fall. My husband had begun rebuilding the vegetable beds in the back. That task also remains unfinished. Early spring weeds flourish, almost inevitable with our preference for all organic methods, but they bother my eye and need for neatness.  

It's just a mess. As I looked with growing despair, I starting thinking about people who have lost everything in floods, fires, and other natural disasters. The rebuild seems overwhelming, utterly impossible. I considered those whose financial futures have been trashed by the economic upheavals of the past few years. My mind soared to those in Egypt and Libya and other places where the entire societies are going to have to be rebuilt. I pondered broken relationships, the ones that seem unreconcilable. Overwhelming. Impossible. Where to start?

With one step, of course. Just start someplace.

Here is a suggestion, a first step:Wednesday, March 9, is Ash Wednesday. This day marks the beginning of Lent, a time set aside each year for rigorous soul examination. We accompany Jesus on that final journey to Jerusalem, through the darkness of undeserved death and then awaken to the joy of new life on Easter Sunday. 

The first step, that place to start? Observe a Holy Lent this year. Attend an Ash Wednesday service--you'll be welcome where ever you go--and choose as part of your Lenten observance to take one step each day toward dealing with the overwhelming impossibles in your life. One step. Each day.

I took that first step in the garden. I bent down, pulled away dead foliage, and saw masses of day lilies beginning to emerge. I looked at my climbing roses--winter dead was rapidly, almost in front of my eyes, turning to spring green. I pulled a few weeds, trimmed some bushes, cleaned up trash, re-potted a plant, swept the patio. 

One step. The journey begins again. 

Ash Wednesday--one step into your soul.  One step to opening your heart to God. One step to transformation. Walk with me--we can take one step together. 

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