On the Beam

My friend Brenda always talks about being on the beam or off the beam. This phrase brings to my mind lasers or beams of light, but it really refers to a path. Brenda talks about being on the beam when she makes good decisions and senses that she is following some sort of guide. She's off the beam when life is messy and she does those things she knows are not good or healthy.
 Keeping our balance is hard. Some days it seems like so much effort to even get up on the beam to start. Other days I just can't keep balanced at all no matter what I do. The truth of the matter is that life can be hard, terribly hard, and staying on any sort of beam is the last thing on our mind. This is what makes our faith a challenge.

I was just reading how in our modern frame we conceptualize ourselves as "thinking our way into right living". Centuries ago it was the opposite. In the ancient church one "lived into right thinking", you worked at staying on the beam and changing your way of life. We develop practices and habits that are in keeping with what we believe--like daily prayer. These behaviors are what Brenda calls on the beam and, with regular practice, these habits become a way of life.

I suppose this is where the idea of suiting up and showing up comes from. We just do some things things, regardless of how we're feeling. Our way of life puts flesh on our beliefs and makes them incarnate. The more we intentionally walk on the beam the more it becomes an unconscious process and we have lived our way into new thinking

When we practice staying on the beam, we know that there will be missteps. We know that we'll struggle to keep our balance and sometimes we are going to fall off. This tentativeness is inherent in any behavior that is even slightly against our nature or would that the larger society views as unorthodox--things like forgiving others. We will stumble and fall. We all get off the beam. The challenge is to get back on.

Fortunately, we don't lose points for stumbling. We simply keep on living into a new way of thinking.


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