by Matt Pruitt
March 28, 2015
Romans 12:12: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
As a former journalist and longtime English teacher, I tend to pay a lot of attention to the connotation of words—those little shades of meaning and emotional values embedded in the language we use. Lately, the word “journey” has been on my radar, in no small part because of the Adult Sunday School’s book study on the journey of Jesus and his disciples in the week leading up to Easter Sunday.
I think the fact that we use that word is significant. “Journey” is a word that we reserve for a particular kind of going. We aren’t likely to pack up the car during our summer vacation and tell the neighbors, “We’re taking a journey to the beach for the Fourth of July.” We don’t journey to our friends’ house in town for dinner. We don’t take a journey through the park to let the family get some exercise and get a little sunshine on our faces.
No, “journey” implies something that’s long (in time, or distance, or both), probably arduous, and likely riddled with uncertainty or even danger. (I think of Journey to the Center of the Earth in the realm of fiction, or the real-life account of a doomed expedition to the South Pole, aptly titled The Worst Journey in the World.)
The journey that Jesus made in the days before his crucifixion was certainly worthy of the term. Not only would it have been long and physically challenging (something I think we gloss over in our age of easy movement across vast distances), but it was increasingly dangerous as his challenges to the power structure became more and more pronounced.
This was true for his followers as well. For most, the journey started with recognition of the light within Jesus, something they saw in him (or vice versa?) that made them leave their homes and families and set off on the path after him. But I’m not sure they could have understood what kind of undertaking they had signed up for. While at times they are no doubt inspired and comforted, they just as often seem weary, uncertain, and even afraid.
And so it is with us. I think it’s no coincidence—fitting really— that we so often use the term “journey” as a metaphor for life, and in particular, for our spiritual lives. The road is a long one (if we’re lucky). It’s dotted with blind curves and hills, so that’s it hard to know exactly what’s up ahead. And if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to feel that perhaps you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere, or accidentally doubled back or looped around to the same place, or stalled out on the roadside. And maybe, at times, to even wonder if you really remember where you set out for in the first place.
Like the disciples, I feel tired and anxious and afraid. But I often suspect that’s because maybe I’ve missed the point. I want to see the destination clearly, to find the path that gets me there directly, and to travel it with the least amount of resistance…but that’s not in the nature of the journey. The journey requires time. It requires patience. And it requires faith.
And what I try to remember is this: faith is in the going. Faith is embracing the stops and starts and sharp turns in the road. It’s coming to love the journey.
Prayer: Lord, let me be a faithful traveler. Help me make a more beautiful path. Give me the strength and courage to see the journey through.