a reflection regarding a vocation for church leaders...

balancing journey & home-making

In our day and culture, we so often tend to think of spirituality in terms of “journey.”  Even biblically and out of our Christian traditions, we find rich imagery that speaks of journeying as an important reality for God’s people in this world: Moses’ ascent of a mountain, Jesus’ desert wanderings, and the notion of pilgrimage as a spiritual practice.  We talk of taking the path from ignorance to enlightenment, we celebrate the words of the old hymn, “no turning back, no turning back,” or we remember the classic story of the Pilgrim’s Progress.  I used to think of this notion that our faith is about journeying ever onward as a sort of conviction that I was made for more; that there was always something greater toward which I must head, striving to leave behind my old life.  

With permission I quote a friend and theologian, Sharon Daloz Parks, though, who would warn us, “The lure of the journey may actually distract us from the present, immediate, incarnate, immanent, intimate activity of Spirit in our midst.”  So also, the late Pastor Henri Nouwen said it may be that “the urge to get up and go is…a temptation to look else where for what is really close at hand.”  Such ideas would suggest if we are to experience significant spiritual transformation and a rebalancing of our souls in our living, we need to seek to restore a balance between the image of pilgrimage, which most of us know well, with the companion image of “home” as a metaphor for our spiritual lives.  Along with the imagery of “journey” as a helpful way of thinking in terms of our spiritual lives, Sharon Parks also writes, “…we will not find the wholeness we seek until the imagery of home, homesteading, dwelling, and abiding is restored to a place of centrality as well.…Homemaking and homesteading are activities which build a space where souls can thrive and dream — secure, protected, related, nourished and whole.…We have learned much about the transforming power of pilgrimage.  We need also to recover the transforming power of the art of home-making.” Richard Niebuhr affirms this in his words, “The soul’s discipline is shaped both by venturing AND by abiding.”  

It is not surprising, then, that in scripture we also discover images regarding the power of finding and making a home for our faithful living in this world.  It is no coincidence that in the Hebrew scriptures, Israel’s reality of being thrown into a spiritually defining journey through “exile” is balanced by their hopeful “return” to the promised land.

But so is there something else to this notion of home-making.  In Ruth’s declaration at the prospect of leaving her old home, this Moabite women in the Hebrew scriptures proclaims to her Hebrew mother-in-law, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”  Through Ruth’s wisdom we discover that in the notion of “home-making” as a symbol for our spiritual life, there is the question of not only “where” we dwell, but primarily with whom.  

In her wonderful article on this subject of finding balance in our spiritual lives between images of “journey” and “abiding”, Sharon Parks writes first that, “the meaning we make and the faith we live by is a matter of the company we keep.”   Later, Sharon writes, “We humans are being invited anew to dwell together, to enlarge the boundaries of ‘home’ so as to embrace our earth, to meet new relatives, and to practice the spiritual arts of hospitality.  We are being invited to inhabit new symbols, and thereby to discover that we ARE home.  For it is here that creator spiritus meets us, in the midst, in the present, now in this dangerous moment, inviting us to be home-makers, to be co-creators of a space in which we — the whole human family — can dream and thrive.”

For we who are Christians, our lives of faith are not simply about what happens somewhere down the road in some personal moment of eternal grace, but also what we experience in the here and now together, as we live in loving community with other Christians, as well as those not-of-our-faith who live around us.  One of our important responsibilities in this world is to help create a hospitable place to abide within, where each and every person feels, and is, truly welcome, so that all God’s children can dream and thrive, and in turn find their way home into God’s nourishing presence.

© Warren Lynn; 2001.          

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