If you had an hour to think about where you are headed, and why, what would you write down on your “outfitting” list?
We’ve begun a slow transition from the bluff back to Trout Creek, and the tall grasses and migrating birds are telltale signs that summer is nearly over. Normally at this time of year, the Walton brothers are busily outfitting for their annual fall paddle in the northern latitudes, when the hallowed and dog-eared purple notebook comes out with its years of collective wisdom- list upon list of gear, menus, and groceries that must be gathered before departure.
The brothers deeply enjoy the process of getting everything ready. As I write this, I have just put Hugh on a plane for Arizona to join 3 of his brothers for their paddle trip down the Colorado River. He was lamenting that taking a trip with professional outfitters takes away much of the pleasure that the “doing for yourself” brings. He was missing his purple notebook.
It is interesting to study the word outfit as a verb. In wilderness jargon, it means to assemble the gear and necessities for an extended time away from civilization: water purification, camp stove, food, first aid kit, compass, tent, emergency distress signaling device, and the like. But it has made me think about whether or how we outfit for our everyday life. I tend to be a list maker, so it’s not a stretch to see how my adopted processes for daily tasks help me stay on course; a decades-old two-month menu cycle informs grocery shopping, and a bill-tracking database helps quickly settle accounts. Going to church every Sunday morning gives each week an anchor, adding stability and sanity into this busy life. Still, what do I DO on a regular basis to see to the proper “outfitting” of my life? If I kept a small purple notebook of the necessities, what would it contain, and how would it keep me on a wise path? Do I enjoy the process of “getting ready” and what am I getting ready for?
When we were younger, this was easier to answer. We were saving money for a house down payment, for kids’ college, for retirement, and developing skills and talents that made us valuable in the workforce. We were learning our way through parenting, and, more recently, caring for our parents. We were studying Scripture and developing a deeper relationship with God and each other.
But what do I “outfit” for now, in retirement? I am making new lists. They are less about preparing for the future as they are about understanding that the future is already here in the present. My own lament is in wondering how much “present” I missed all those years that were so focused on preparing for someday. So, I find that the lists are evolving, much less focused on action and more focused on virtue. Virtue? Yes. Character infused with godliness. It’s a high calling, and worth the study.
I believe in eternal life with God, which gives me a secure future that I didn’t fully appreciate in my younger years. A secured future gives us the freedom to take better care in and of the present.
My new set of lists is energized by prayer that God outfits me with grace, wisdom, contentment in any circumstance, and a truly benevolent heart for others.
Other things in my notebook (mine is blue) include to:
- refrain from divisive speech
- be the best listener in the room
- honor my husband
- cherish and dignify my mother’s final days
- to appreciate creation in all its beauty and mystery
- and to jump more readily with Isaiah’s enthusiastic response to God’s lament, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And, Isaiah swiftly replied, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa 6:8)