Robin and I have been walking pilgrim roads for nearly seven years now. As I look back I can see more than just the length and breadth of these experiences. It has been a period of discovery that has often been confounding as well as awakening. When the pilgrim road first called I felt I was responding to a call to find more about my spiritual life. The pilgrim road with its long solitary days seemed perfectly suited to exploring my inner journey towards God. Back then I honestly thought that my relationship with God was sort of like sharing a seat with someone on a bus or train. You are in the same place at the same time, perhaps conversing, perhaps not. When the urge wells up to reach out in response to some inner motivation, then we speak trying to tease out some interesting thread that might be at best instructive (gaining wisdom) or more likely just trying to be present and pleasant. So there the stage is set. It is a belief system that places God somewhere where through prayer you can reach out for comfort, solace, and mercy. You are somewhere in your life and God is out there somewhere waiting for your call.
Today I feel quite differently. Perhaps the many long hours shuffling along the paths, hills and valleys of Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy have created in me a new space where I now believe God simply is. What of this then? How did I arrive here? In my experience, we all set out in life with some goals in mind. I suppose mine were typical. A happy marriage, a good job, able to pay the bills, and perhaps, even then, a sense that a spiritual relationship needed nurturing. So off we go into life following our hearts and most likely our best self interests. We move along discovering that some roads are better for us then others. Let’s say we give the good roads, the ones that affirm our beliefs and reinforce our goals, a bright yellow arrow. These are the paths always to be taken. At other moments we find ourselves on a diversion and quickly realize that we have made a mistake. We sense that we must turn around and recapture the way that we lost. These paths we will award a nice big black X. Do not go there, do not continue, turn back. So it was over the years that I unknowingly created a locus of experiences that shaped many aspects of my life, including my relationship with God. So to the point. It now strikes me that we do not coexist with God side by side, but that God is us. For most of my adult life, being raised Catholic, I had this tortuous belief system that put us as failed sinners in pursuit of a loving forgiving God who would heal us with his mercy. A kind of us and Him relationship. We are here begging for mercy and He is there wondering what we are up to. Over time this belief of an existing separation between God and us changed to a more profound belief in singularity. Meaning that God is us, not just within us like some pleasant passenger sharing a seat, but truly is us as we are Him.
Yes, all this faith stuff is by its very nature mystical. Some people can never get there. It is just too much of a leap, but whether we acknowledge it or not (I believe) God, is there, is us. It also makes sense that this mystical singularity then supports the outpouring of God’s love that is there to lead us beyond all the physical distractions and challenges of daily life. He would never just leave us adrift. He doesn’t have his hands on the wheel. We are still doing the driving and making decisions, but a map is there for us to follow, or not. We decide whether to choose the bright yellow arrow or continue beyond the danger mark of the black X. Just a bit more about God’s love. Remember this excerpt from scripture, “my ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts.” How true it is that we are so different from God, and thus our understanding of His love is limited to the emotional or physical aspect That we as humans know it. But, God’s love is something totally different. Words are difficult to find to explain it. Again this is us, as humans, trying to figure out the nature of God’s unlimited love. I guess we have to allow ourselves some room for error here, but let’s just imagine a love that has no limits that starts from a place absent of self interest or self gratification. It starts from an totally empty space, pure humbleness, that then fills to overflowing with a boundless goodness that is offered to us if we are patient, still, searching, and receptive. We were created in God’s image and likeness as christian teaching tells us, and so therefore as He is, we are also. We just have to try and live a life that reflects His grace. Yes, admittedly that is the tricky bit. But, I believe it is our nature to try to be Christ like. Heady stuff. Keep in mind these are my thoughts on my journey and where it has led me to date in my understanding of my Catholic faith. Your journey may take you someplace totally different, and your peace might be found following some other path. All I know is what I have encountered and related in this post. So, the pilgrim road still beckons. The search for wisdom continues. Admittedly, my faith occasionally runs more on the cooler side than the warmer. But, I now sense a joy, previously unfelt, for this life journey, although difficult at times, is leading me to a place free of darkness, and for that I feel forever blessed.
In closing, I heard Robin practicing this song she will be singing at mass this evening, Two were Bound for Emmaus. This excerpt from that song always touches me as it speaks to the road we all travel, our weariness, and our humanness.
“When the road makes us weary, when our labor seems but loss, when the fire of faith weakens and too high seems the cost, let the Church turn to its risen Lord who for us bore the cross, and we’ll find our hearts burning at the sound of His voice.” The complete song is below. Enjoy.