I recall one trek from my youth, where it was a constant slog of ‘up and down dale’ albeit we were no where near Derbyshire or Yorkshire, we ended up going through a number of peaty bogs (seen above). The black mire would infiltrate every pore of your sock, leaving a wonderful, but smelly, pattern when it eventually dried. Ah! Dartmoor, I knew you so well. And we had blisters, in various stages of life development, to prove we had walked miles.
I wonder, what is it like to journey with God?
Firstly, we can view it over the whole journey, from the very start to the distant end. Here’s Jules Verne fictional journey around the world.
That journey was miles but he could not see the whole journey, even though he had the map. We can usually see about 3 miles in reality – at that’s if the horizon is flat. I doubt we will see the endpoint, our destination, of our journey. Also the weather at our final stop will probably change by the time we arrive, so looking at it now may not be that productive. We could look at each dip and incline, but, whether we have that a foreknowledge or not, we are not able to change the geological formations. We could plan a detour I suppose; however, in my opinion, they are very contextual. What is the actual terrain like? Currently in the UK rather barren and dry – give it a few months and we could see it back to being rather muddy underfoot. We need to know of the circumstances at that part of our journey to weigh up the benefits of that detour. It’s always easier looking back to see where the detour should have been made.
Alternatively, we could look at the group of people who are journeying with us at this time.
They may not be with us for the whole of our journey: some may have reached their destination prior to ours, or elect to stop over for a while at a particular juncture. Each person may, probably will, have a different character, a different subset of skills and talents which may help the group on the journey. The innate map reader, that person who can use the sun and rolling landscapes of the land to discern where the path may exist. The comforter, the one intrinsically knows who may be struggling, who is starting to fall off the pace. The encourager, the one who can, sometimes with words, often with a look, being alongside, can motivate and support the temporarily weary sojourner. The strong one, who can take the load of others for a wee while.
In Scripture we have Wisdom who provides that fundamental deep knowledge of understanding – she who can provide us with a grasp of the situation and the path ahead, even if the clouds are descending and our views all around are limited. Again the Spirit is known as the comforter. Jesus promised the Disciples that the comforter would be there to support them in all of their troubles – not always to save them from the peaty bog but lead them out in the end. Jesus was always one to encourage his Disciples, even if sometimes they did not really understand his words! I recall the words of Jesus to the one crucified “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). I wonder what the fellow thought of those words at that time? He was at his wit’s end, literally, and then he had hope! Jesus also spoke of taking the load: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). We also have Jesus’ followers subverting the extant authority when the Roman soldier ordered the local to take his pack but then the follower would “go also the second mile” (Matt 5:41).
We can look at our journey and decide whether we will walk it ourself, a solitary march where we know the route – come what may. Or we can look to declare ourself as equal with others, capable but needing to work alongside all others (Gal 3:28).
All are permitted on the journey with God.
Now we can take time to sit down with others and view the world, our world, God’s creation, from their perspective. We can engage with their perspective, not judgementally, but, metaphorically, masticating the two views. I love that word – masticate : “where food is crushed and ground, to allow a more efficient breakdown of enzymes” (Wiki). There’s benefit from the process. Rather than merely rebut the views of others we walk alongside, view it from their perspective and chew it over. We can see where our own views may run parallel, cross and entwine or diverge. But at least we have engaged.
Here surely the knowledge we have can be grown,
be developed and we are coming to a synergistic conclusion.
We could then compare and contrast our new view with what God has declared as good. Where is God on our journey? Do we include God in our conversations?
Taking time out also allows us to stop and actually view the world, the sheer beauty of the vista. I have just come from Birmingham, where it could be described as a concrete morass. Equally we could view it as the place with “more canals than Venice“. The green spaces which pervade the city are, in a way, like spiritual wells, places where we can stop on our journey and impart liberating fresh supplies. Now in Yorkshire the wells are in different places: the hills, the valleys, the towns nestling along the rivers and canals. Both places have a common feature though: people. Here are wells of joy as well.
Currently I am sitting at the starting point of a new venture. One in which I am unsure of the path ahead, unsure whom I shall meet, where I can find rest. One thing I am assured is that I am being led. God knows that path ahead of me, God will not lead from afar, but lovingly so close. As the couple along the Emmaus Road, we can be in conversation with God, chatting about what we see, discussing the meaning and walking with God.
I’ll return to this journey later but now I need to take stock of the view and rest a while, for in life there’s time for work, rest and pray.