During the past couple of weeks, I have been reading two books for my morning writing practice and prayer time. The first is On the Pilgrims’ Way: Conversations on Christian Discipleship during a Twelve-Day Walk across England by J. Nelson Kraybill. The second is The Journey of Desire: Searching for the Life We’ve Only Dreamed Of by John Eldredge. Both of these have caused me to examine what it means to be a human and a Believer, and I would recommend them for anyone.
Kraybill‘s story is about a twelve-day hike he took on the Pilgrims’ Way, following the ancient path of pilgrims as they travel to Canterbury. Each day he traveled with different companions – his family, a Franciscan monk, friends from his own Mennonite congregation. And each day, he found a new theme derived from the conversations he had with these people. Some days they talked about prayer or risk or service or community, but each day their conversation was routed in what it meant for them to follow Christ. . . all the while they are walking onward toward their goal.
While this book was not my favorite on discipleship or even pilgrimage, it did have wonderful moments such as this:
I was so full of gratitude for knowing Jesus that I could not find words, and tears expressed that gratitude better than spoken prayer. The privilege of following Jesus seemed more precious than anything I have ever known. Day after day on this walk, I had been with people who deeply longed to know God, and their experiences had changed me. How could I thank God for taking me on a journey that really means something, both on the Pilgrims’ Way and in life?
A journey that means something . . . isn’t that what we all seek?
John Eldredge’s The Journey of Desire is a book that met me right where I needed to be. The basic premise of this work is that people need to recover their desires, their true desires, and go after them. For believers, that means we need to thirst for and long for life with God that we also need to follow those desires that are given to us – our vocations, our passions, our loves. . . Wow, did I need to be reminded of that. As Eldredge points out, so much of life tells us to deaden our desires, to just get through the day, to make it work out, to survive . . . we stop yearning for things because it hurts when we don’t get them (or when we don’t get them right away), and when we stop yearning, we are not living fully into the lives God has given us.
Yep, that’s it . . . that’s what I need to be reminded of – that the true desires I have (not the wishy-washy desire to eat more Girl Scout cookies or to nap all day) are from God, that they are things laid into my very nature by the Creator, by the one who redeems, not ruins. And then, I also need to remember that I need not strive or orchestrate to get the things that I desire. God has it all under control and if I simply live the life I’m given and love God through it, the things I desire will come to me. Sometimes this seems so hard because sometimes the things I think I want are not really the things I want in the deepest part of my self; sometimes, too, the things I do want are a long time coming. . . but here, then, is where I must learn to trust that these things will come at the right time? Now, to do that . . . well, that’s must harder . . .
Both of these books remind me that this life is a journey (and a battle, as Eldredge points out), and that if I keep my feet moving forward with my eyes on the prize of knowing God more, then I can’t lose my way. My path may be difficult – as every worthwhile path is – but at the end, there’s a glorious mountaintop where all will be well, where all is well.
– On the Pilgrims’ Way by J. Nelson Kraybill
– The Journey of Desire by John Eldredge