Lead Me by the Right Road

The package of letters is staring me down. I finally took them out of their hiding place from my dining table chair. I couldn’t look at them the first couple of days, couldn’t acknowledge their existence. Tonight, I moved them into sight. 

I eye them warily while playing solitaire and listening to the second book in Elena Ferante’s Neapolitan series. I try to escape into the world of two friends in Naples, but the letters taunt me with their presence. But still, I feel ready to read them tonight. Almost ready. 

I eat dinner—disappointing leftovers, the meat fatty and gristly and the vegetables a melange of sameness. Still eying the letters. Still avoiding them. 

I pour myself a gin and tonic, the scent from a goji tarocco orange-scented candle heavy in the air, curating the moment to come. I open the package and bring out its contents—a stack of 14 envelopes. The top envelope embossed with my name. Still, I avoid the letters. 

I start writing, anything to avoid reading what’s inside those envelopes. These letters are just another reminder that my life has blown up and I was the one who pulled the pin on the grenade. The signs of the explosion are all over. My wide-open days. The text messages. The meetings with therapists, spiritual directors, and former co-workers. The sadness that emerges as I walk by familiar places, the anger that awakens me at night. 

But these letters have a unique hold over me. The envelopes hold words from people to whom I gave 2.5 years of my life. Who I ministered to during a pandemic. Who I laughed and cried and feasted and worshiped with. The people who I left last month without an explanation. 

Tears fill my eyes as I type these words, a manifestation of the grief my body contains. The letters remind me that I didn’t get to say goodbye. That I may be misunderstood. That I made people angry or sad or confused by how I left. That I don’t know what to do with the truth, because it is still wreaking havoc in my body and soul. That I had to leave these people I loved because I could no longer continue in a toxic environment. That everything in me wants to be understood and vindicated. That these desires may never happen. These letters are the most physical, touchable, real-life evidence that the explosion wasn’t a metaphor. 

My life is changing and will continue to change. Into what? I have no idea. The debris still floats to the charred floor where my life used to be. The beliefs and assumptions still in movement as they seek a new configuration. Thomas Merton’s familiar prayer resurfaces before me: 

My Lord God,

I have no idea where I am going. 

I do not see the road ahead of me. 

I cannot know for certain where it will end. 

nor do I really know myself, 

and the fact that I think I am following your will 

does not mean that I am actually doing so. 

But I believe that the desire to please you 

does in fact please you. 

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. 

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. 

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, 

though I may know nothing about it. 

Therefore will I trust you always though 

I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. 

I will not fear, for you are ever with me, 

and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

These words have a way of cycling through my consciousness on occasion, usually in moments when I am lost in my lostness. The feeling of disorientation, of in-betweenness, of waiting for a settling, are once more here. The perils—tonight in the form of some letters—will continue to come. But my breath escapes my body in a deep exhale at this moment, my flesh recalling that I am not alone as I read these letters. 

I open the first envelope. 

Jen Manglos
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5 thoughts on “Lead Me by the Right Road

  1. Dear friend. I’m sad with you but also hope with you that God is even now attending to your soul.

    Thank you for sharing your vulnerability.
    Sue

  2. Glad you are giving voice to where you are. Sorry this has been such a painful time. From a sermon, parables are designed to create tension > leads the hearer to a crisis or collision that requires movement. Parables are stories with built-in curve balls. They can drive us closer to Jesus as we seek to navigate, understand. Praying the dust will eventually settle to result in clarity. Mamie

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