In my wandering I have always enjoyed pausing to rest. As a child, I loved to sit in the hollow of the base of an old fallen tree, pondering on the animals and vegetation around me and letting my imagination soar. On our hikes, while Wendy is taking photos, I just pause and look at the beauty around us: a vista view, a moss covered rock, or a single flower. I ponder the beauty of this bit of nature or simply observe in silent enjoyment, as Jesus recommended when he said, “Consider the wild flowers...” and “Consider the birds of the air...”
On my wandering through life, I have tried to follow the Christian Way. I was brought up in the Catholic tradition and attended Catholic schools. I am constantly reading books on spirituality and am now a professed and ordained member of The Lindisfarne Community. I have also spent many years following the Way of the Tao, reading and through a daily qigong and tai chi practice. Tao, in Chinese, means "the way," "the path," or "the method." It refers especially to "the path of life" or "the way of nature.” The Tao is described as an experience rather than a thing.
In my younger years, I interpreted Christianity as a thing, a doctrine. The Jesus story was a theological truth to be understood and set of rules to be obeyed. But now it seems that since the earliest followers of Jesus were called Followers of the Way, the Way of Jesus is also meant to be a journey, an experience, and not a thing.
Author and minister, Brian McLaren agrees. In his newly released book, “We Make The Road By Walking”, he writes, “Faith was never intended to be a destination..... it was to be a road or way, it is always being extended into the future.... To be a living tradition, a way of living, it must forever open itself forward and forever remain unfinished - even as it forever cherishes and learns from the growing treasury of its past.”
Nineteenth century Celtic teacher, Alexander John Scott, taught that there are two avenues for walking the Way of Jesus as a living tradition. He wrote “The Spirit of God is impregnated throughout the whole of creation. Hold the Bible in one hand but also study God in that other volume, the great and holy book of creation.” Just as in the Bible, we hear words of human goodness and evil, so in nature we see suffering and cruelty at one level, but also the ongoing creativity, beauty and joy of God.
On one of our anniversaries, Wendy and I decided to drive to the North Shore of Lake Superior and hike the Superior Hiking Trail from the top of Moose Mountain down to its bottom and across the Poplar River to Lutsen Mountain Resort. Somehow, not long after beginning, we lost the marked trail and eventually found ourselves precariously clinging to a rock wall edge. Below us was a steep and frightening drop through the woods. After some time feeling my heart pump wildly with fear and anxiety, we made it to a clearing that we later discovered was a black diamond ski hill during winter. We were relieved and took some time to sit and regain our composure. Looking around we were awed by the beauty of the spectacular view from this spot. It was a spiritual moment for us. We slowly made a sliding descent on our bottoms, using our feet as brakes and steering rudders until we again found the actual trail far below.
Reflecting on this unplanned adventure somehow brings to mind Jesus’ saying, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8). I have come to see the Way of Jesus as a way of adventure, like our hike on Moose Mountain. It is not always one of safety and comfort, but one that filled of challenges. It is also one of beauty, joy and awe. On that hike, we had seen, and engaged with, the “great and holy book of creation.”
In the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the young hero, Sonny explains, “There is a saying in India: Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not yet the end.” I, God willing, still have many years to walk the Way, and while everything is not alright with my aging body, the Earth, or her people and creatures, I have faith that everything will be alright in the end, or it is not yet the end. The Medieval English mystic, Julian of Norwich, shared Sonny’s view as she assured us, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Meanwhile, I’ ll just keep walking and pondering on the Way and I hope that this blog will somehow help you in your wandering.