One of the most common metaphors for life is that of a journey. Seeing one's life as a journey is as old as human consciousness. For a person who sees himself as a "seeker", that symbol of journey is very powerful and full of context.
Last week I turned the page of a travel book written by an Irish woman in 1963 (every page I turn in a book is a metaphorical journey). She observed that when most people take a journey, they do so from the perspective of "going away from". From the outset, these people travel with a pervading sense of anxiety and foreignness, leaving all that is familiar behind - strangers in a strange land, as the Exodus story frames it. The author contrasts that outlook with a very few who journey from the perspective of "going towards," where there is a sense of being drawn forward, an expectation of promise and discovery.
Last week I listened to readings from the journals of black people who suffered enslavement and its evils. Those ancestral stories, read aloud by descendants several generations removed, were also about journeys of going away from and going towards. There was contrast between the despair of capture, transportation and sale into slavery, and the hope of new life following escape through the Underground Railroad.
I'm at the point on my own journey that I pay attention to coincidence. I think to myself, "Okay, God - what are you trying to tell me about my own journey? Is this a teaching moment?"
Of course we are all on a journey of some sort - it's called life. We have choices, decisions, challenges and victories to experience. It strikes me that one of the decisions I have to make is whether my journey will be one of "going away" or one of "going towards".
When the disciple Thomas questions Jesus (John 14:6), Jesus responds, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Jesus understands that his disciples are uncertain and he speaks to reassure them about the outward and (most importantly) the inward journey they will make if they follow in his footsteps towards a life in God.
I believe those reassuring words are meant for me as much as Thomas. At its core, it is a message of encouragement to live my life as a journey of "going towards." As much as possible, my journey has to be full of the here and now, living fully in the present. My future - that's a source for hope, but only in the sense that it draws me towards the next moment of now. And the past...well, it's over and done with and I need to move beyond it.
It all sounds so simple, but I know it's a difficult journey to make. Everyday I'm faced with the choice between hope and despair and my stories reflect the pull of those contrasting outlooks. God being my helper, I'll keep seeking the Way.