FEAR NOT THE JOURNEY
READ: James 1:2-4
“My brothers and sisters, consider it joy when struggles come your way, for you must know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance, and perseverance must complete its work, so that you will become fully matured, complete, not deficient in any way.” – James 1:2-4
For the Christian, our life is a faithful journey, not so much one made in comfortable, first-class seats of jet airliners streaking across the skies or in climate-controlled, surround-sound cars hustling along interstate highways, but on long, hard climbs and along rocky, winding trails, with our destination being created out of the wisdom gleaned from the experience of the journey itself.
Early on in my ministry, a well-traveled pastor gave me some solemn advice that time has proven to be most wise indeed. He said to me, “Jim, always venture into the fearful places you come upon, for it is there, where you will be most matured.” When I have followed that counsel, I have gained experience for the soul; when I have surrendered to the fear, I came away diminished. His counsel of venturing into the fearful places … matured me when those fearful places were in pastoral ministry and when those fearful places were within the landscape of my own inner soul, but most of all, when those places were found in the nitty-gritty human experience of life. And when I prayerfully ventured into all those fearful places … I found that the Lord was with me and together were learned of life as we made our way a few more miles along the Eternity Road.
In these later years, the journey sometimes is made with slower steps, often wearied, often aching. Arthritic joints sting, MS weakened muscles give way, the old heart and lungs labor more than they once did, but still … the journey goes on … and I am finding … nowadays, through places of even deeper meaning and even higher wonder. And I believe that as my soul has begun to mellow in this the gloaming of my life, my soul beholds more and more of the teaching of God found in these later moments and in these later miles.
Less and less do I think of my salvation as something that awaits me at the end of my days, but more and more, I think of salvation as being presently crafted, day by day and mile by mile. Some might limit the idea of sin and sinfulness to standards of good and bad; but nowadays, I think of the idea of my sin and sinfulness more in terms of the “still unfinished” and the “yet to be fully matured”.
Jesus sent out his disciples two-by-two into the world. And it seems he sent them out … way too-early, before they were fully prepared, before they were fully trained, before they fully understood. Jesus seemed to send them out into the world without sufficient supplies and with minimal training and planning. Yet … it was on their journey that they began finding their way, learning first-hand their trade, maturing much further in faith and spirit. This is why I do believe that the battle-cry of Christian discipleship is …”We Journey On! Follow Me!” It is the Way of Christ and His method of training disciples … “Follow Me! And in our journey together, we shall learn of the way, we shall learn of the truth and we shall learn from the Life itself.”
The other day, I worked in the fields of Greyfriars’ Abbey for the first time this Spring. The sun was in full blaze, warming the good earth and those who worked upon it. I forgot my wide-brimmed, straw hat that the monks wear when working in the field. When I returned from the fields, Brother Matthias took one look at me and declared, “Brother Anthony, I see you brought the sunshine of the day home with you!”
I do believe that when our earthly pilgrimage is over, the saints who greet us may declare …”I see you brought the best of the journey home with you!” We do become the product of our journey, but even more so, the product of how we make our journey. So fear not the fearful places, for it is most often there that you are most matured.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
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