When I was very young and the urge to be some place else was on me, I was assured that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy was middle age. In my middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ships whistle will raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clip of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself…
…in this a journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to try to control it. I feel better now having said this, although only those who have experienced it will understand it.
Sadly, not my words (I wish!)…but those of John Steinbeck written in the early ’60’s as he started to recount his Travels With Charley: In Search of America, published in 1962.
Once upon a time I was a missionary. The mission I worked with was unique in that it was very similar to a monastic community of old. Like Illtydd of the 6th century it trains up recruits in a rhythm of prayer and work, then sends them out along the highways and byways of countries near and far, open or closed, to pray, to serve and to pioneer new openings with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Journeys were important to the Celtic saints of old and many were supernatural in nature and intent. As Jesus did in Luke 10, our mission often sent out small teams with simply the clothes they wore and the little money they had, to prayerfully set off on journeys of simplicity returning a few days later with amazing tales of God breaking out and making a way for them to share the gospel, to commit acts of kindness and to see healing and provision of a miraculous nature. I, myself, did several in areas as diverse as the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, the Southern Carpathians in NE Romania and also a couple of times in Malaysia. In each case God did amazing things for us.
I even set off once on a journey to the Far East, knowing the destination in theory, but not having a clue to where it actually was in the world! I had to turn to the inflight magazine for that information.
I’ve been blessed to have travelled the world over and lost count of the countries I’ve visited and lived in. But the most difficult, marvellous journey I have ever taken was the Interior One. It began with all the excitement and passion described by the Nobel winning, Steinbeck. It has been impossible to control, and the destination uncertain although guaranteed. And in the fact that my journey guide is persistent, sometimes silent, often seemingly distant and at odds with my opinion, very like a marriage!
The Celts memorised and sang the entire canon of Psalms for their worship life and would sing them to encourage their souls on journeys (although they walked or sailed and not taking planes).
Somethings never change…and that’s a good thing.