Sunday, March 8, 2009

How's the Journey?

Carey said in his comment to the last post, "I think we are all still egocentric adolescents."

I agree. We remain such until we gain maturity in Jesus, which occurs when we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.

We often hear folks refer to the Christian walk as a journey; I have and do. Yet this morning it occurs to me there is a subtle problem with the metaphor.

Functionally, it allows one to acknowledge he or she does not understand everything but has faith to believe the right path has been found. Within the paradigm of a journey it becomes acceptable to veer at times as an unavoidable circumstance. This I describe may be a moment or days of being confused, rattled, distracted, or feeling somehow separated from God. Some water-cooler discussion at work brings us to a statement of Christian platitude, perhaps, which on reflection in a quiet time we feel failed to answer the other person's question or challenge. We realize the platitude itself doesn't satisfy us.

I once stumbled upon a blog post that was three years old. All I remember of it is that the author was a British Christian and this post was reported by him to be his last. The three or so lengthy paragraphs were everything he needed to say on the topic; and in his estimation, all that needed to be said on the topic which I cannot remember. It was a Christian topic I do recall. Anyway, he determined to leave the blog open for others to read, yet he had finished this blog for all time as the contents were that important for Christians to understand. I guess I should have bookmarked his blog or worked harder at remembering his position.

Was his journey with God finished? Did he understand something we all needed to know, but which I failed to understand since I wasn't moved to remember his point? Was he a bit ego-centric? I wonder how he thinks today about that summative and "final" position he took. Is the journey no journey at all, if we have figured it all out? How do we interpret Ecclessiastes' lament that there is nothing new under the sun, if we assume that our life journey into God allows that we discover something we have not known?

I think I raise two questions at once as the double tines of a large and piercing fork. A fork I often feel impaled upon!

1. Is walking with God not a journey but a destination? It is full and finished as is, though I have yet to fill up the number of days allotted to me.

2. Is question number one an ego-centric position that I, as a mere human, actually understand all of my life?

Back to the journey metaphor: I think we feel safe living within the metaphor. It gives us a mental and emotional space to contain our failures before God and our aspirations toward His holiness within the same container of the self. We wrestle our selfishness with some measure of self awareness that to be selfish is a characteristic of being incomplete, and that is accurate. We then in contrast know, piecemeal perhaps, God. From this level of awareness, we see spiritually and recognize much that the one who is truly lost will not see. Thus caught between two opposed realities of our existence, we have to explain why we are not fully in God all the time. Hence we adopt the metaphor of the journey. Being held a moment or two in the briar patch because we took a misstep off the path in the Wild Wood is to be expected, eh?

Or is it?

It is finished--at least His side of it. There is no journey, if we mean by journey to find more of God. Yet it is also true that something remains to be "discovered" by us. It is not anything new. But if we do not have it, then it remains to be found. Many of us (perhaps not all) are stuck in the briar patch until we do something together: it is written above as copied from Ephesians.

4 comments:

pagehamilton said...

Ded - your thoughts on the "journey" metaphor remind me of George Ladd framing the kingdom of God is a cross between the "already" and the "not yet" - things that are certainly already true about Jesus' rule and reign in the heavenlies, but are not yet worked out on earth in our reality. Perhaps akin to his instruction to pray, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" - encouraging us to pull what is true in heaven forward to earth now. Beginning to use the "journey" metaphor was, for me, a way of moving away from any pretense of having arrived to the fullest (not before we see him, eh?) and embracing the humility of constantly "being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator." (Col 3)

By the way, found your blog because my wife and I spent a couple hours with EB this morning in a local Starbucks, and she pointed us here. Delightful time, we look forward to more.

Checked your profile - can't say I've heard anybody else ever mention "The Wind from the Stars" - an encouraging read from my all-time favorite author. It was collecting dust of late, so took it off the shelf - thanks. Also, I've had "Courage to Teach" on the shelf for years, never read it. Maybe it's time :-)

Appreciate the spirit of your posts.

ded said...

pagehamilton,

Thanks for visiting and commenting. By my stat counter, I know I have several hits from those who never comment. Though I appreciate knowing that many choose to read my meandering thoughts, it is always much more gratifying to be able to interact with readers.

I am blessed that Emma Beth was able to meet up with you and your wife. I know she is looking forward to more time together, as well. If you care to see pictures of our family, link to my wife's blog from my page. It is called Porchsittin'. She has actually loaded a large number of photographs, so you may find it too lengthy to spend time viewing all, but there are several shots of all our children, the young women now married into our family, and everyday aspects of our journey.

You mention the journey metaphor, "Beginning to use the 'journey' metaphor was, for me, a way of moving away from any pretense of having arrived to the fullest..."
A yup, me, too! I visited your blog and enjoyed reading there briefly this morning. (I must get off to work here soon, so will read more later.) We became disillusioned and struck out for something other than the status quo in the mid 1990's, as well.

RE: Wind From the Stars--more than once I have clicked on my own recorded title of that little book looking for someone else in Bloggerville who notes it. No one does. Interesting you know that little gem. I am in the middle of one of MacDonald's novels even now, just for the joy of it.

RE: Courage to Teach is written by a believer for consumption by the secular world, but strengthened my then (1997) developing view of teaching within the body of Christ as a function of trained experts who present themselves as, well, trained experts.

ded said...

pagehamilton--

Another book by Palmer is To Know as We are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey. It contains similar themes to Courage to Teach but with a more directly stated Christian reflection.

careyrowland said...

"Whoever would gain his life must lose it."
Or something like that, Jesus said.
It's a paradox, indicative of His ways being beyond our comprehension (but not our experience.)
That paradoxical approach to truth also encompasses this journey/destination metaphor that you have unearthed.
I see no contradiction. Reconciling these two positions of having arrived while still traveling onis a process of serving our great God whose goings and comings are of old. He wrote the DNA code, initiated the big bang, keeps my heart and yours beating, died and rose from the dead...broke the seven seals...it's just, just...I give up trying to comprehend the depth and extent of the paradox. And in so doing, I arrive at belief, and at a place of hope, where I pray, with pagehamilton and all others who are willing to journey with us, that God will "pull what is true in heaven forward to earth now."
I like that, don't understand it, but I like it.
And I like this, ded: "We then in contrast know, piecemeal perhaps, God. From this level of awareness, we see spiritually and recognize much that the one who is truly lost will not see."
That muchis what we have gained by allowing the Lord to be our travel guide. And it is precious. it is treasure in a field, a pearl of great price.