From The Garden Bench - Journeys
Words by David Hollows
In June there was the failed attempt to improve the current record of travel by train from London to Glasgow, the target time being missed by 21 seconds.
In the same month one person paid £28 million during an international auction to be involved with 2 other people in a short private flight into space. This auction took place in the same week as the Chinese sent 3 astronauts to their space-station and a month after a probe was landed on Mars.
Just to prove that you are never too old, the Queen travelled by helicopter to the newest of the naval carriers, The Queen Elizabeth 2, prior to its maiden voyage to the other side of the world.
Journeys, especially to space, are currently very topical.
At the moment the Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, is on the outer edge of our solar system more than 10 billion miles away.
On the other hand, a sphere-shaped submarine is being used to take 2 people deeper than any other person to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean where a whole new world of creatures is being revealed for the first time.
In May there was the news report of the disturbing political incident when an aeroplane was diverted to Minsk in Belarus on the pretence of a potential bomb on-board in order for the authorities to arrest a political dissident.
There continues to be the large number of refugees who are intent on crossing the Channel in all sorts of ways to arrive in our country or who continue to endure horrendous journeys to seek a better and safer life.
2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic was certainly the year of journeys – or lack of them. You may recall during the first lockdown the single weekly visit to the local supermarket and the queues and the much quieter roads and skies devoid of aeroplanes but filled with bird song.
Some of the insurance companies refunded car owners as miles travelled was greatly reduced and people worked from home.
Journeys by bus, train and taxi took on a new meaning as the wearing of masks became the norm and walking became the trend, especially for those who invested in an expensive puppy as demand for a pet increased and the prices shot through the roof.
Holiday plans continue to be disrupted, even in our own United Kingdom, as parts of the Union disallow people from certain counties with high levels of infection from travelling across borders.
The only people who seem not to have had their journeys disrupted to any degree are those from the worlds of sport, politics, celebrity or journalism who have continued to journey across the world.
Journeys do not always have to involve a physical movement from one place to another.
Photo by Matt Howard via Unsplash
During the various lockdowns we have all been given quality time to assess our lives and, hopefully, prioritise what is essential for us. If you visit any bookstore, you will see many shelves which are stocked with self-help books to assist you on your ‘inward journey’ or, simply visit the Internet or YouTube where you may encounter a vast array of ‘experts’ who are more than happy to assist you on your personal journey of discovery.
Down the centuries, the inward or spiritual journey may have involved retreats or pilgrimage.
You may have experienced a short or longer time period of retreat where you have secluded yourself, on your own or with others, and sought a quiet time of solitude and/or silence.
Pilgrimage is not just confined to the history books of the Middle Ages as religious people journeyed to Jerusalem or Iona, York or Canterbury. People continue to journey to the holy places in Lourdes and Fatima or walk the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. For religions such as Islam, the Hajj to Mecca remains an important journey. The purpose of pilgrimage varies from person to person but essentially involves a journey for whatever reason.
Pilgrimage should be not confused with the Crusades which were journeys of a completely different nature and purpose.
In the Bible, there are many examples of a range of journeys.
The most famous of all the journeys which most people may remember is that of the Magi as part of the Nativity narrative (Matthew chapter 2). There are the escape journeys such as that of the Israelites from Egypt (Exodus chapter 13) or Moses as he fled from the murder scene (Exodus chapter 2). There are the journeys of intent as Abraham leaves Haran to journey to a new country (Genesis chapter 11) or he takes Isaac to the mountain as a sacrifice (Genesis chapter 22). There are the dramatic journeys, for example, that of Jonah or Paul and the shipwreck off the Turkish coast (Acts chapter 27). There are the epic journeys such as that of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years (Exodus chapter 15) or that of Jesus and the 40 days in the wilderness (Luke chapter 4). There are the journeys of promise such as the claiming of the Promised Land by Joshua(Joshua chapter 4) or the return of Nehemiah to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. There are the short journeys of great significance such as the crossing of Galilee in the storm (Mark chapter 40) and the conversation involving Jesus and the woman of Samaria at the well (John chapter 4). There are the missionary journeys of Paul as he travelled to various parts of the Roman empire with the Good News and there are the journeys which changed people’s lives. For example, the journey to Emmaus when the 2 disciples met with the risen Jesus (Luke chapter 24) or Philip who met the Ethiopian official (Acts chapter 8) There are the many miles of journeys Jesus travelled with His disciples during His 3 year ministry across Israel yet the most arduous was His journey to the cross along the Via Dolorosa. As a toddler, Jesus became a refugee as His parents took Him on a journey from Bethlehem and the dangerous wrath of Herod to the safety of Egypt (Matthew chapter 2) and as a child He was used to making the long journey from Nazareth to the temple in Jerusalem (Luke chapter 3). In His story of the Good Samaritan, the businessman was on a journey from Jerusalem to Jericho (Luke chapter 10) yet the most important story of a journey is that of Jesus, Himself, leaving Heaven to come to earth.
Often the life and faith of a Christian are described in terms of a journey. As the journey unfolds, the believer is accompanied by the Holy Spirit of God who guides and directs, protects and provides for the believer. Jesus warned that the journey of faith is on a narrow road (Matthew chapter 7) but our destiny is Heaven or eternity with God. Christians also know that the faith journey will involve many experiences and situations – positive or negative – and that we will encounter many people of a variety of backgrounds, some of whom we may find it easy to share our faith with in words or actions whereas others may be difficult to ‘love’.
Photo by Luke Porter via Unsplash
Jesus did not promise an easy or problem-free journey but faith teaches that God is with the believer every step of the journey.
So, how is your journey at the moment? Stalled, bumpy, confused, stressful or full of promise and happy days? Wherever you are on your journey of life and faith, remember, our God journeys with you.
You may find the following prayer helpful:
Lord, be with my spirit and dwell in my heart by faith. As I journey, be with me everywhere and at all times, in all events and situations. I ask that you will never leave me nor forsake me in my present journey here on earth. I pray that you will be ever with me until I arrive at the end of this life’s journey to spend eternity with you. In the name of Jesus I ask my prayer, amen.
Photo by Christian von Koenig via Unsplash