Going Back to Go Forward*: the Girl from Snowy River Rides On

*Kudos to Tim Cahill for a most appropriate title. Who knows but what  one day I’ll actually write that book, Tim. #rambleswithruby

I guess you’re owed an explanation – if you want one. It was, after all, more than a year ago that I traveled to Northern California, writing about my trip back to the place that made me and about what I learned there. Spoiler alert: what I thought I knew then is much less than I know now and less than I’ll know tomorrow. I’m ok with that.

Anyway, I put that thread on hold last October to tell you that I had decided to leap off a scary cliff (That Girl from Snowy River? Help My Unbelief) and then went mostly silent on here while I dropped over the ledge and down its steep face.  I think I’ve hit the bottom now, but I’m catching my  breath just in case. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Last summer I drove to California to attend a Travel Writers’ Conference, using the trip as a literary device to kickstart a reclusive muse. Since it was on my way I decided to revisit my childhood home. In the process, I planned to exorcise a few demons, free myself to tell more stories, and finally, return to Boise to live my life out as a wiser woman. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

I came back with more questions and after a lot of self-introspection and prayer, I realized that I had been focusing on the place that made me instead of the qualities that make for a home. Turns out my parents’ house was really no home at all and the one here was not much better.

That was a surprise, but I turned my face to the wind and decided I’d been looking for the wrong things all along.  I figured I had a two options – leave or stay. Leaving has always been my way, but I decided to stay and look for happiness in things that fill rather than deplete me.

Then I had the dream. My Girl from Snowy River Dream, I call it.

In a nutshell, the dream showed me an optional and precipitous path I had to agree to taking – another run for elected office – once again with no promises save that I would reach the bottom quickly, and if I took it, He would be with me. I took nothing for granted but considered the odds were that this one would be successful. It wasn’t.

But I couldn’t know that then. So I, like the Man from Snowy River, went chasing a metaphorical herd of brumbies with a cracking bullwhip, in hot pursuit of something I thought might fill me. I’ve spent some months now trying to figure out why it didn’t succeed (answers are important). The only answer I got was that the outcome was as He intended, a God-wink of 7,777 votes. What were those odds? 

Beyond that, I wondered, what was the purpose of all that effort, of trusting God to go off a cliff only to be disappointed? Of demonstrating to myself and others no small measure of unrewarded faith and courage? I have come to think that it was largely about recognizing there are other kinds of rewards: knowing myself and God better.

Most of us have read those great words spoken by Teddy Roosevelt in his “Citizen in a Republic” (Man in the Arena) speech. They’ve comforted me before and did this time too. I won’t repeat them here, but did you know that before he said that, he said this:

“The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer,” he said. “A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities—all these are marks, not … of superiority but of weakness.”

There was a lot of cynicism during and after the campaign. Most of it from me. 

The lesson learned before taking the short way down the hill was that letting go is required. No place, no one, and no thing will make me happy. The lesson learned afterwards is that I can’t make me happy either – maybe I can in the short run, but it always comes back to the knowing that there’s Someone bigger, Someone greater, without Whom I am lonely. Without Whom I have no answers.

Sitting in the First Baptist Church in Merced in 1995 I answered an altar call. They weren’t the type of church to make altar calls but that morning they did. I wasn’t the kind to go forward in a public setting and I had been long since saved, but I did. I asked for one thing. One.

“Lord, I want to know You,” I said in my heart. Not save me, not heal my dog, but the confession of a believer of wanting more than a Sunday-only faith.

And though He didn’t thunder back from the heavens, I somehow knew that because I had asked for that one thing and because it was His will for me, He would give that to me… and much more.

I just didn’t know that sometimes knowing comes through painful circumstances. From being willing to relive things in order to move on from them and be free.

I have no idea how this strikes you, but to be brutally frank, that’s not my problem. At some point a month or so ago I knew I was done with the past. I knew that from now on, my path truly is ahead, not behind. And that there’s so much more to this God Who answered my prayer, Who shows me more of Himself every day. Who causes me to leap off cliffs and is teaching me to enjoy the ride.

My only regret is that I’ve just learned this at 64. No matter.

Who knows what I’ll learn tomorrow. I’m not going back anymore. I’m lonely no more. This Girl from Snowy River rides on.

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