Originally posted March 30, 2011, at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog. Republished with permission of the author.
Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now. — Maya Angelou
“Everything’s good! I’m about 50 miles in so far. I love you!”
The text message flashed at 1:27 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, just as my plane was landing in Atlanta from Chicago.
It may not seem very significant, but every small word I receive from my son Michael these days gets my full attention.
Last Saturday, March 19, he set out on foot from the approach trail at Amicalola Falls in north Georgia to hike 2,188 miles on the Appalachian Trail, spanning 14 states.
Sometime in late August or early September, he will finish his hike at Mount Katahdin in Maine.
This is a journey he has wanted to make for about 20 of his 24 years; a trek he has dreamed about and talked about for as long as I can remember.
I knew how important it was to him, and I had every confidence that he would always be physically active. But I confess that I wasn’t absolutely sure he’d be able to go through with an endeavor this great.
Not even accounting for the time commitment and the cost involved, I just suspected that the physical endurance required would make this journey nearly impossible.
But, he is on his way!
He’s following the white blazes (trail markings), pushing himself to the limit, and joining with other hikers — finding community — as he goes. Whether he makes it “all the way” or not isn’t really the point any more; he has taken the first step into a life experience that will forever change him.
The journey metaphor permeates our scriptural narrative and stands at the heart of our understanding of the Lenten season as well.
The earliest Christians called themselves “the Way.” A common experience with God has been held in the images of “exodus” and “exile.”
For centuries, Christians and those of other religious traditions have gone on pilgrimages to those places they consider holy. So, however else you understand it, the life of faith is an excursion — from youth to old age, from innocence to experience, from ignorance to wisdom, from death to life.
For all of us, whether we’re moving through the regular patterns of our lives, or walking 2,200 miles at a stretch, there is opportunity. So, in honor of Michael, and in the spirit of this season, perhaps we might take time to consider the journeys we have already taken, both actual and spiritual, as well as the expeditions that await us in the future.
We begin by considering that in any kind of travel, there is always both the leaving and the arriving. The ways we prepare for our journeys personally and interact with others in our comings and goings directly affect our overall experience.
When we “sneak away” without saying good-bye, for example, we literally leave things hanging and we miss the opportunities we are given to express ourselves to one another. Likewise, when we arrive someplace new, or when someone arrives in our midst, we are given the occasion to be welcoming and to form a new relationship.
Travel is also transitional, in its very nature. There is always change involved and adjustment required. Whether we are just visiting a place for a short time or moving for forever, we are vulnerable to circumstances and situations which are different than what’s “normal.”
Allowances must be made, and patience must be practiced — there must be love and understanding shared on all sides so that the changes will be healthy for everyone.
Our journeys can be fun and exciting, too, if we are ready and open to the workings of the Spirit! New growth and learning is the greatest benefit when we dare to step away from “home base” and move boldly into the wild blue yonder!
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to follow the “white blazes” that he has provided for us, to overcome our fear and to reach out into the world around us.
We are called to change, as change is needed, and we are blessed to know the transformation that comes when we follow the new path that the gospel makes possible for us every day.
Let us, therefore, embrace the excursion of faith — from youth to old age, from innocence to experience, from ignorance to wisdom, from death to new life!
Find a link to Nancy Christensen’s entry at ELCA Southeastern Synod Blog at Lutheran Blogs.