Faith and the Journey Metaphor
Tim: I have something to confess. I’m not a fan of the journey metaphor. Every time I hear people talk about “their journey,” something in me winces.
Shea: Why is that?
Tim: I’m not sure. It’s a very useful construct for contemplating one’s life and spiritual maturity. I get that. But when I hear folks claim, “It’s not the destination, it’s all about the journey,” I feel my head tilting to one side.
Tim: Well, it is about the destination; it has to be. Otherwise, it’s not a journey. It’s just wandering. And I think it’s important always to be moving toward something, mostly because I believe faith is inherently aspirational. How did the writer of Hebrews define faith? “The reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.”
Shea: Faith compels you to aspire to know and experience and see things beyond your present reality. Howard Thurman points us in that direction with this week’s readings.
Tim: That’s what got me thinking about this. He’s especially eloquent when talks about how slaves of the American South viewed their lives as “a pilgrimage.” Thurman says their spirituals often pointed beyond “the vicissitudes of life” to a “true home of the spirit with God.” When we make it all about “the journey” and lose sight of the destination, I think we get lost.
Shea: So let’s expand on this for a minute. If we think of being Christian as a journey, then we should seek a destination of some kind. Traditionally, that would be the afterlife, correct? Follow Jesus straight up to heaven. But we both know that’s a perilous idea, because some folks mistake that to mean that there’s no point doing anything to improve life here on earth.
Tim: It’s escapist theology, not what Jesus or the Apostles taught. Their intent was radically changing the world—not merely prepping for life beyond the grave. And I don’t think the slave spirituals were only about going to heaven after their hellish existence was over. I believe they knew something we often forget with all our “journey” sentimentality. They knew life with God—a true home of the spirit—was possible in the midst of hell on earth.
Shea: You can feel that in the their lyrics and melodies. They’re going somewhere, but not only in the end, in the great beyond. They’re going somewhere in the here and now.
Tim: Yes! And I think that’s where Thurman directs our attention this week. Being Christian isn’t only about “the journey.” It puts us on the path of becoming something now, something beyond ourselves, something we can’t manage without divine grace and mercy and goodness.
Shea: Amen to that! Which is why the Lenten wilderness is so important. We’re not simply wandering around for the “journey experience.” We’re becoming something.
Tim: That’s the idea. We’ll be exploring this notion of being Christian and becoming this Thursday. I’m looking forward to it.
Shea: I am too!
Join us each Thursday in Lent as we delve more deeply into our spiritual lives with the help of the great 20th century pastor, activist, and mystic Howard Thurman. We meet each week at 7:30pm in the Resource Room of Pilgrim Congregational Church, 460 Lake Street, Oak Park or online at FB Live. See you this week!
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.