A journey already finished
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Psalm 23:6 NRSV
We tend to think of life as a journey, right? It has a starting point, a few stops along the way, an end. Point A, to point B, to point C. The Bible seems to be a reflection of that. It has all these stories about journeys: good ones, bad ones, fantastical ones. We see it in Adam and Eve’s journey from Eden. Noah’s journey upon the waters. Abraham and Sarah’s journey to new lands. Joseph’s journey to a foreign one. The exodus. The exile. Jesus’ journey to the cross, Paul’s journeys across the empire, all the way to Revelation, where the journey finally ends. The Bible as a whole can be read as the continual journey of God’s people to him, and him to his people. We follow after his cloud and pillars of fire; he follows us with a Son on a cross. Before Christianity became Christianity, it was called “the Way” – even that evokes a sense of journey, of movement.
This sense of faith being a journey allows us to uniquely express the sense of becoming lost. We don’t become lost in situ. No, we become lost while we are moving. We become lost in deserts and deep valleys. In dark places. This concept also allows us to express the idea of being found again – of returning, like the prodigal son.
Something we need to realise, though, especially when traversing dark places, is that this metaphor of journey is meant for us, not for God. Like the parables Jesus told, this sense of journey is a parable for the fact that God’s itinerary for your life starts and ends with him. He is the big “X” on the map. He is arrivals and departures. He is as much on the mountain tops as he is in the valleys. It is only our experience of his presence that changes; his actual presence does not. In the moment, when the desert stretches out around us, mercilessly scorching, it can be easy to forget that God is there. We look for him in distant green places. Sometimes we need to, to move forward, to make changes, to take a leap of faith. But more often than not what we need to do is not so much to travel to find him again, but to remember that he has never been lost, and neither have we.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” –Thomas Merton (Source.)