I don’t know . . .
These days, that’s how many of my sentences begin.
I don’t know how threatened I should feel by the steady resurgence of Multiple Myeloma (“Frank”) in my bone marrow and blood, or when to begin treatment, or how much more my energy will diminish.
I don’t know if the drugs will calm “Frank” back down or what the new medicine’s side-effects will be.
I don’t know how much time I have. Maybe a lot; maybe not.
And, I don’t know what uses of that time, however long or short, would be wisest, gladdest, and most faithful.
The uncertainty is a wilderness.
I’ve lived in the desert before, camped-out in provisional shelters of promise, and gathered, day by day, just enough mana-meaning to sustain me.
The wilderness doesn’t frighten me; but, thank God, it does unsettle me. Being settled isn’t always good.
Disorientation is one of many gifts which the wilderness has to give. Disorientation interferes with my tendency to orient my life toward predictability and routine. It prevents my letting familiar patterns blind me to new possibilities, and it doesn’t allow allowing easy comfort to deafen me to unexpected guidance.
I’m especially disoriented about how best to respond to the voice of vocation—the opportunities and obligations of calling. Calling and vocation describe God’s luring us and life’s inviting us to live fully, joyfully, and mindfully in ways that go with, not against, the grain of our DNA, gifts, talents, passions, and interests and that make it possible for us to love God and neighbor.
We answer that vocation—we say “yes” to that calling—with our life’s work, some of which we do in jobs and roles for which we are paid. The goal, of course, is for there to be as much convergence as possible of job and life’s work. Sometimes, though, our jobs are about making a living, while our true work is part of making a life.
Across decades of pastoral ministry, my life’s work and job overlapped considerably. I’m deeply grateful.
I’m also aware, though, that they didn’t perfectly match—they almost never do. There were things I felt called to do—and ways I felt invited to be—that didn’t seem possible in the role of pastor. Partly, there was too little time and too much institution-tending. Mostly, though (I realize in retrospect), I let routine, security, and impoverished imagination throttle me.
In an old episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye said to Margaret: “Maybe you and I are just too choosy. We’re both looking for a custom fit in an off-the-rack world.” That’s certainly true of the relationship between life’s work and job, even when a job fits really well, as most of mine have.
For a long time, I’ve told myself that I’d get to the challenges of unanswered vocation and the wonders of unlived life “later.” Even since diagnosis with a treatable-but-incurable illness, I’ve had seasons of inattentive postponement. For that reason, it’s good for me to sojourn again in the wilderness of unknowing.
Here, without answers to most of my questions, I get to—have to—remind myself of the urgency what I do know:
There’s work to do, even when the job can’t be done.
Security is a numbing illusion.
Later is where dreams go to die. Now is the place where hope lives.
Prayers for you as you decide where next to go in this wilderness. As always, your words speak to me.
Thanks so much, Debbie. Hope all is well with you and yours.
Now is the time.
Love is why
Joy is the end.
Praise is the song
And…Peace is the Blessing. Shalom.
Yes. I keep coming back to those few things that I “know” in the midst of so much unknowing. Thank you.
Prayers and blessings
Thank you for being so transparent with us, Guy. Your words ring true for me. Sending love and prayers your way.
Thank you, Gyni. Love and prayers for you all, too.
Praying you make the right decisions. Sending love and prayers to all.M
Thank you so much, Janet. Our prayers and love to you, too.
Honestly, I do not know how to put into words. I feel your for you. I feel anger about what you are experiencing. Tears are falling from me with empathy for you. In God’s love I am your friend. My anger is more frustration that I can’t make all of this better for you.
Gail, thank you so much for your honest and gracious love. It means a lot to me for you to be “with” me in this. Grace and peace, Guy
This wilderness of uncertainty and it’s disorientation must be addressed. It cannot, will not allow one to ignore it. As you wrote, “security is a numbing illusion.” One grapples with the questions. There is no easy way through the wilderness. It took the Hebrew nation 40 years to wander through it! And God was with them. And He is with you, with us.
Than you for your willingness to share your struggles. We all need someone to listen.
Prayers for you daily.
Betty, thank you. I know you know from your own experience about the kind of disorientation I describe. There are no easy ways, but there is a way, if not to leave the wilderness, then to live in it without despair. Love and grace, Guy
This is such a heartfelt and warmly received message, Guy. I am holding you in the light.
Thanks you so very much, Barb.
Guy, your words and your life challenge, encourage, and inspire me to live more fully in the moment. Thank you for sharing thoughts and your self with us all. Grace and peace.
Thank you, Scott. It means a lot to me to know that my words are helpful to you. Grace and peace to you, too.
I understand to some extent. You are a blessing—God’s Man. I am sorry about Frank. Wildernesses are not all bad. Just don’t build a cabin there. We still pray for you and talk about how you have blessed us. Our love and prayers go on
Thank you, Sue, especially for your prayers.
The wilderness of uncertainty oh how I can relate. How quickly the years of perfect health and boundless energy soared by. Thinking of you Guy Sayles and prayers that you will be able to keep on keeping on and have lots of good years left. This article really spoke to me and reminded me to not let my heart issues define me. I am so thankful for knowing and working with the staff at First Baptist. Definitely the best.
Thank you, Gaynelle. I’m grateful, too, for the time we worked together at FBCA and for the opportunity it gave us to know each other. Grace and peace to you, Guy
Guy, you have my love and prayer. There are days I sit in my wheel chair and feel sorry for myself, but then I am reminded I can fight on. It is my choice. Whatever you choose in current fork in the road, know there is Grace with you — surrounding you, above you, below you, before you.
Bruce, your comments mean a great deal to me, because you know from your own hard experience that, even when we have the chance to choose our responses to limitations of any kind, it’s far from easy to choose. Grace to you, too.
Thank you for helping all of us be more aware of our ‘calls’. Thank you for living and teaching what you believe. Your writings are so encouraging. i
In the midst of your troubles, you console your readers.
Many thanks for your walk….
Praying steadily for you.
Rebecca, I’m grateful for your encouragement and prayers. It means a lot to me for you to be in touch.
Guy, you are my teacher as well as friend, whose life journey has prompted me to live life more fully in times of uncertainty. Please know you have my presence and prayers.
Buddy, I’m grateful for the opportunities to share friendship and to learn from each other. Thanks for staying close by.
Thanks Guys. Important words for us all. Time to keep routine out of the way and discover.
Thank you, Phil!
May God bless you with mor strength and endurance and courage …
Thank you, Suzy.
Once our mortality comes near, our days perhaps numbered, I find that I, and perhaps you as well, we richly desire to make the most of every day, and realized how many days trickled through our hands like desert sand. Always appreciate your honesty in sharing your journey, and I pray you will continue to find ways to bless and touch others in each day and breath you are given.
Beautifully and truly said, Larry. And thank you for your prayerful support.
Guy, as always, thanks for sharing so deeply and personally. We are all enriched by your words and vulnerability. As I passed through DC a couple of weeks ago, I stopped at our Wake Washington sight. The only student present the day we were there was Emily Wilmink from FAB. The first thing she did was talk about how much she loved you during the interim. I told her we all love you. Take care my friend.
Thank you, Mike. Your encouragement means so much to me. I’m glad you crossed paths with Emily. She and her family were so gracious to me when I was at FAB. My love to you, Guy
You are fighting the good fight. You have stayed the course with faith and love. We love you and will continually to pray
Thanks so much, Sandra.
Oh, Guy. I have so hoped that the cure for MM would arrive before Frank again raised his ugly head.I’m sorry that you are again having to deal with treatment issues and all that goes into that – physically, mentally and spiritually.
I truly appreciate your openness in sharing your struggles. Your openness in sharing always meant a lot to me even before Frank. You have always let us know who you are.
Interestingly, about 2 months ago I felt led to begin praying for you each day; now I know why. I have been camping a lot and hadn’t kept up with everything.
I pray that you will be clearly led by God through all that is ahead of you and will be blessed with healing!
Thank you again for helping us to see what life is really all about.
Cheryl, I’n glad to hear that you;re getting to spend so much time camping, because I know how much you enjoy it. Thank you so much for your encouragement and our prayers. It means a lot to me for you to be in touch. Grace and peace, Guy
It is impossible to put into words how you continue to teach me. I do pray for you but, at times, feel a tad of guilt because I learn and draw more than I give in prayer. Once again, you are teaching with these raw and heartfelt words. I have learned from you once more this day. And now…I will pray. Thank you Guy! Blessings, Joel
Joel, it means a great deal to me that my words offer you some things to ponder and, especially, tomhave your prayers and encouragement. Gratefully, Guy