Push off from shore

Do not fear to step into the unknown. For where there is risk, there is also reward.

Lori Ward

Last night we attended a retirement party for a much-loved minister and his wife of many years. There were many touching tributes and lots of humor, but my favorite part was his brothers (and others) telling in outline form the stories of his life. And there was one story that touched me deeply.

At the time of Bill’s graduation United Theological Seminary in Minnesota, he received a gift from his wife. It was a cross, on the back of which she had had inscribed the words “Push off from shore.” I was captured by this story. It told me a lot about her, and about their relationship.

Later I found myself wondering how I would tell my own life story if I chose the organizing theme: “push off from shore.”

I have pushed off from shore at what turned out to be critical moments–to name a few, leaving home and starting a new life a thousand miles away, changing careers a couple of times (depending on how you count it), moving my practice from Minneapolis to St. Paul (which was regarded as professional suicide at the time), taking on the role of whisteblower in my church, and most recently moving back to Denver at the age of 62. Some of these decisions seemed inevitable; others came in a flash of inspiration; and still others took place only after long, thoughtful reflection and conversation.

But there have also been times I mistakenly stayed ashore when it was time to push off–once in a work partnership, and once in a church. Those were times when I was was badly hurt and seriously disillusioned, but in time I learned some things about my tendency to overdo trust and loyalty that have served me well in the years since.

And there was one time when I had a very lucrative chance to go out on the water and I decided not to, without really knowing why–just because every time I thought about the offer I got a stomach ache.

Exploring themes like this can’t help but take your story deeper, and it may also give you a sense of what leads you’re following, what prompts you’re responding to, what inner currents carry you.

Reflection suggstion:Take a little time to look back over your life with the phrase “push back from shore” in mind. What shores have you left? How did you make those choices? How did they shape the rest of your life? What inner and outer places have you stayed with for a long time? What difference have they made in your life?

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Explore posts in the same categories: life story, life story writing, personal history writing, risk-taking

One Comment on “Push off from shore”

  1. Wenda Says:

    Good question. Feels like I’m about ready to “push off from shore” again. I’ve been reading David Whyte’s book “Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity.”


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