Are we there yet?
As Christians we do ask this question a lot. But what is the answer?
On holiday we decided to take a day trip from Lynton to Barnstaple. The road directions were well marked, just follow the A39. There was one problem: none of the road signs gave any indication as how far away we were from our destination. It was a classic case of ‘are we there yet?’
This got me thinking about pilgrimage. As Christians we like things to be certain. At the Christian holiday retreat, one guest was explaining how he was trying to ‘prove’ the bible. For him it had to be black and white, historically accurate and ‘true’. Any sense of mystery and uncertainty was not welcome.
The problem is that life is not black and white, it is multi-coloured and multi-hued. The bible itself has many mysteries, but none should detract us from reading, seeking to understand and, dare I say, enjoying it. God is a mystery. At the end of the communion service we declare ‘the mystery of our faith’, that ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again’. We know how Jesus died, and while we know he rose on the third day, we don’t know the mechanics of the resurrection and his coming again is a complete mystery that even Jesus himself did not know when would happen.
So often we want our Christian lives to be mapped out for us, knowing that ‘if God is in control’ God knows what will happen and we just have to follow the ‘map’. But our Christian lives are not quite like that. We can trust in God for the journey, but so often the road is unclear, we might get lost, and while we might read road signs, we certainly don’t know how long it will take to ‘get there’.
The Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years must have asked the question on numerous occasions: are we nearly there, how much further, where are we? At our week away we heard how Ignatius of Loyola allowed his donkey to chose which way to travel. We thought of the Celtic saints who sometimes simply set their coracles on the sea and prayed that the currents and winds would take them to where God wanted them to go. Alone on the vast sea they must have wondered how long they were to be at the mercy of the wind and waves. Yet they trusted that God was with them on the journey and would bring them to shore at the right time. I love the prayer of the Breton fishermen: ‘Lord, the sea is so vast, and my boat is so small.’
We are coming to the end of Lent, anticipating the resurrection, but for those first disciples they had no idea that Jesus would rise from the dead, until then resurrection was something that would happen at the end of time, not three days after the crucifixion. As disciples we might know the general direction of travel, but we have to trust that God will guide us on the journey and take care of the timing. Sometimes when we think we have reached the destination we realize that it is only a stopping point along the way; the journey continues, as does the mystery.
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