“And Abram journeyed on by stages towards the Negeb.”
~~ Genesis 12:9
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor” (Deut 26:5) is likely the first affirmation of faith in the Bible. It speaks to a people who began their lives with a call from God to journey in faith: “Go to the land that I will show you” (Gen 12:1). I spent two weeks in Turkey and Greece along the Silk Road making a journey of faith with others who were out to visit the sites of the Seven Churches of the Revelation. We were not just on a journey of faith during this brief time, but this pilgrimage was a microcosm of the experiences of our lifetime faith journeys.
Deciding to set out is the first step of a faith journey! For many of us, counting the cost is too expensive. We say we could save so much money by setting out alone, buying a cheap fare on line, and so on. However, we never do this because we are afraid to go alone. Travel in a foreign country, even one as safe and hospitable to Americans as Turkey, is not as safe as being in the USA for those without connections or knowledge of the language.
I missed the tour bus and had to negotiate my own way out to the suburban location of our hotel in Istanbul. First I tried the bus, but the driver wouldn’t take me there, so I went to the taxi stand. The driver didn’t speak English, but I had the hotel address and phone. He called them and got me there before the Tour Bus arrived. If my mother were still alive, she would be in the hospital with a heart attack! But I travel by faith, and believed that God takes care of those who journey with him.
In ancient times folks travelled in groups also. These are the caravans of antiquity: traders travelled together to protect their goods and families journeyed together to protect their herds of animals. The average daily distance herds or camels could cover was 15 or 20 miles. Along the Silk Road we saw many Caravansaries/Hotels, some of which have been converted into destination resort/hotel accommodations rather like our bed and breakfast lodgings.
The Sultanhani Caravansaray pictured is more like a fortress than a hotel. Inside are rooms for the people and their goods. These have high and small windows and heavy doors for easy defense. The open courtyard has water and cooking areas for the common use. Across the way are covered open porticos for the animals and their handlers. There are also “accounting rooms” for any trade that was contracted there.
We all need a resting spot on our faith journey. Sometimes we just get tired of “going onto perfection.” We think that we are good enough, or at least better than our neighbor, and that ought to suffice. But is that our true calling as a people of faith on a journey? In the work place, we always strive to do better. On the athletic field, we always want to leap higher or run faster. In our creative endeavors, we are unsatisfied unless we are constantly improving!
So why is it that people of faith who have set out on the long journey of Christian Perfection come to the decision that “good enough” is their Caravansary or Resting Place, when they have “an ancestor who was a wandering Aramean?” If we are ever to obtain the image of Christ by faith, continuing the dangerous journey is our calling.
Along the way we’ll not know the language, the bathrooms will be hard to find, and the food won’t be familiar. If we look only for what “feeds my needs,” we probably aren’t leaving familiar territory. We aren’t going to the Land God is going to show us. We aren’t journeying by stages to the Negeb, to the desert lands. The heart of the matter is we don’t want to go to the desert as part of our journey, for in the desert everything is stripped clean down to the bare essentials. The excess of the fat lands, the lush growth of flowers, the sweet smell of success, and the power of regeneration that happens with ease all have a siren call. The arid and dry lands have a still small voice that can only be heard by a heart that is in tune to silence and simplicity.
This is a different journey from the world’s journey. Not everyone will hear it. Not everyone will take it. Some of us will use the Caravansary as a place in which to hide from the world, others will use it as a temporary resting place. The Silk Road beckons us to continue on our pilgrimage.
Our spiritual and artistic reflection project: Journey Image. Consider your own journey and your own call (spiritual, vocational, missional, etc.). Pick a line or image or both that represents the story of that journey to date. You can use a “timeline” format, a collage, layers, a clock face, or a self-portrait with multiple images to represent this journey you are on. If you want to include your hopes and dreams for the future that is also good!
Joy and Peace, Cornelia