I don’t usually have much trouble figuring out things to write about. Every now and then, though, I wind up with a serious case of writer’s block. The most expedient antidote to this affliction is to pick something random and follow wherever it leads. Today, after several days of wrestling with this post, I had to go with my old standby method and pick a random book from the shelf to use for inspiration.
And today’s book is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.
I remember reading this book when I was seven or eight. I was absolutely enchanted by it. After all, what kid doesn’t love the story of a boy who runs away to live in the wilderness? I ran away all the time when I was little. I never got very far since I wasn’t technically allowed to go farther than the big ditch that marked the edge of our yard, but I loved this story about a boy who actually managed to run away properly.
As I was flipping through the pages to find something inspiring in this story, I found that the thing that caught my attention was actually in the preface. Jean Craighead George writes about attempting to run away when she was a little girl, and how, years later her own daughter did the same thing. Both of them returned shortly.
She writes, “Although wishing to run to the woods and live on our own seems to be an inherited characteristic in our family, we are not unique. Almost everyone I know has dreamed at some time of running away to a distant mountain or island, castle or sailing ship to live there in beauty and peace. Few of them make it, however.”
It is an interesting thing, running away.
When people rebel—Martin Luther against the Church, Martin Luther King Jr. against segregation, peoples against their governments, one generation against the ones before it, and so on—they often feel that there is something vital missing from their lives. They have lost something that is absolutely crucial to them, and they need to get it back. Whether that thing is liberty, happiness, the opportunity to thrive, or something else, that something is seen as being so important that it is better to die fighting for that thing than to live without it.
Running away has a very different effect. After running away, one often finds not that one has found something critical, or restored something necessary to life or liberty, but that one has lost something desperately needed. For instance, when most small children run away from home, they suddenly remember all the not-so-dreadful things about being at home. Like supper, maybe. And not being all alone. This is also true for other running away situations.
In The Red Badge of Courage the soldier Henry finds that after he runs away from his duty, he is missing the dignity and self-respect that he needs to be able to proceed with his life. It is not until he returns to face the same terrors that he fled from that he is able to find the peace that he is looking for.
When people run away from God, they often experience this. Persons and nations abandon morals and adopt the idea that God is dead only to find that something is missing. Of course, there is the option of filling the void with something else, but tends to lead to its own problems.
It is not always an easy thing to remember or bear with, but I think that is imperative to remember that the best part of running away is being able to come home again. Running away teaches valuable lessons, and many people are better off for having learned them. In some way or another, it’s all part of the journey toward God. Whatever the situation, and however bad it seems at the moment—however stupid or painful or useless things appear—they all have a point and a purpose. Who knows? Maybe there’s even a good reason for writer’s block.