A piece of serendipitous theology
Ever since writing and delivering The Disciple’s Way earlier this year, I have become more and more convinced that the journey of faith can only be made on foot. We cannot overfly the territories of faith, gaining a bird’s eye view. We cannot whoosh through it in a train, rattling along the tracks which others have laboured to lay down for us. We cannot drive through it, with some zooming through in sports cars, others gliding along in the coach-built elegance of limousines, and still others plunging off road in their 4 x 4s. No, the road of faith must be walked – step by step by step. As one weary traveller put it on completing a walk along the Great Wall of China ‘it is worth it every lousy step of the way’.
With all this in my mind, I had my moment of theological serendipity. Trapped in heavy traffic, I tuned into a radio station I would not normally listen to, and heard Cambridge academic Robert MacFarlane talking about his latest book ‘The Old Ways’. In the book, he talks about some of the oldest pathways in Britain, and discusses the rhythm of the walker. For him there is something almost spiritual about our relationship with the land through which we pass. In fact, there is no ‘almost’ about it:
The term spiritual is culturally contraband.
But I’ve searched and searched, and there
are no better words. Religious language is all
Interesting, don’t you think? Maybe Isaiah was thinking with the mind of a spiritual plodder when he wrote his famous promise for the young and the old that they should ‘not grow weary’.
Tonight, as many in the United Kingdom look back over six decades, we shall be doing the same in church. Many will share spiritual milestones from their walk of faith. Some will seem so ‘domestic’ as to barely translate to a wider audience, others will resonate more widely – but all will represent genuine footsteps of faith.
One of the best moments in along walk is the momentary pause when you look back and see how far you have come. This is especially gratifying, of course, if the walk has been uphill.
Will you take a pause today?