I’ve watched every episode of Lost.  What started out as a show about an airplane crash and the survivors, became a complicated world that integrated faith, science, mythology, psychology, literature, politics, survival methods, and a big dose of “what the heck?!?” down a hole in the ground.  Fans of the show know that there were characters and plot lines that had to be survived in order to understand the long-term mysteries regarding the meaning of the island itself and the polar bears, smoke monsters, and tribes that lived upon it.  There were episodes I watched with no awareness of what else was going on, and others that were 60 minutes of noise while I was focused on something more important.

One of my favorite concepts in the show came during a section that was quite miserable.  The show ended years ago, so I don’t feel like I have to protect any readers from spoilers, but I also have a friend who reminds me that everyone deserves to experience the story as they want to (and will hurt be in the parking lot if I ruin an episode of SHIELD).  Therefore I’m not going to go deep into the details but the short version is that a character is being pulled back and forth through time, with mental and physical consequences.  To keep himself sane, he focused on his beloved as a touchstone.  He loved her and focused on finding a way to get back to her.

I’ve loved that idea of a point to go back to when you are lost in the world. To have a person, place, or thing that reminds you who you are no matter where (or in the case of Lost, when) you are.

During our final session in Ethics, Dr. Karen Longman started class by sharing about a funeral she had attended for a friend and colleague that morning.  She used that memorial as a start point to remind us that our experiences are more than resume building works.  Instead we should be developing the qualities and experiences worthy of a eulogy.  After attending funerals for a co-worker and a student in the past six months, I am absolutely aware that the stories shared in that setting are much more important than those at a job interview.

Karen handed cards around the room.  She then displayed a photograph from our orientation on the front screen.  Bright and shiny faces beamed down at us from a retreat center in Malibu.  We were asked to write down what has changed in our lives since that photograph was taken; a good bookend to the new cohort picture we had taken just 20 minutes prior.  Then we were to flip over the card and think about what is coming next.

For most of our cohort, this semester means our final coursework at APU and in our educational journey.  In six months, we will be focused solely on the 200-page dissertation that will mean three extra letters for every signature, for the rest of our lives.  So the question was what will we focus on for that next phase.

TouchstoneOn my card I ended up with five goals for this next phase.  The overarching theme is to not waste the next year of my life on a paper that is nothing but an assignment, and to not lose a year of my life to that same paper, not matter the potential value.  There are individuals and experiences that must be held onto during this next phase to keep me grounded in the real world and to keep me challenging that world to be something more.

The last goal, “wrestle with God,” was the one that I almost held back after the first four developed quickly and clearly.  For those that talk with me regularly in the real world (vs. cyberspace), you know that I have had a struggle with God for several years now over unanswered prayers regarding family members.  He remains silent about those requests, but with desperate hope and faith I hold onto the fact that he is at least present and listening to them.  I don’t want to give up on the fight for answers.  Because the fight is worth it.

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