I’ve lived in our east Asheville house longer than I have lived in any
house in my entire life—including during my childhood. Before coming to Asheville, I lived in
Huntington, West Virginia, in five different houses and communities in greater
Atlanta, in Statesboro, GA, Louisville, KY, Edwardsville, IN, LaGrange, GA,
Locust Grove, GA, Montezuma, GA, Griffin, GA, metropolitan Washington, DC, San
Antonio, TX, and St. Louis, MO. It’s my version
of Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
move I have made has been disorienting. That disorientation was especially
vivid the first time I moved out of the deep South, where Baptist churches held a near-monopoly
on religion, sweetened iced tea was the house wine, fried green tomatoes were a
delicacy, grits were as common at breakfast as coffee, and loyalty to a
football team was a cause for which to be prepared to die.
places in this country where a Catholic Church towers in every neighborhood but
a Baptist church is hard to find; where salsa is more common than ketchup;
where you can shop for a Christmas tree in shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops;
and, by contrast, other places where people actually understand ice hockey.
learning curve: driving with a map or directions close by and finding doctors
and a dentist, good but affordable restaurants, a reliable and honest mechanic,
a dry cleaner, a barber, a bank, a bookstore, and a racquetball court. It takes a while to get your bearings.
moving is that a fresh start in a new place doesn’t necessarily result in a
genuinely new beginning. For instance: if
you happen to be a person who has patterns of self-sabotage and a history of
trouble dealing with authority, and you haven’t taken the time and gotten the
help to figure-out why you undermine your own success, act against your own
self-interest, and engineer conflict with your boss just like you did with your
dad, then it won’t be long until the new job will be just like the old one,
because you took your old self with you to the new work.
make a new home, either. Unless you deal
with your own needs and wounds, you might be just as preoccupied by work, just
as distracted by your own stuff, and just as insensitive to your spouse as you
were in the old house. And, be you’ll be
just as lonely, angry, and clueless in the new house as you were in the house
change us. It depends on whether or not
we let new places, people, demands, opportunities, questions and ideas penetrate
beneath the surface of our experience.
Transformation requires challenges to how we think, feel, and act; and a
lot of us resist rather than embrace such challenges. We defend ourselves against newness even when
it confronts us. We live superficially
and, therefore, meaninglessly.
why I want us to pay more attention to the inward dimension of our faith
journeys—a dimension we too often neglect.
Former Secretary-General of the
U.N., Dag Hammarskjold, was right when he said: “The longest journey/Is the
journey inward” (Markings, 58). Faith is not mainly an external and
geographical pilgrimage; it’s internal and biographical. We journey with Jesus into the depths of our minds,
hearts, and spirits. We explore more and
more of who we are and who we may become.
us courage and strength we would not otherwise have, we take what Joseph
Campbell once called “a hero’s journey.” With Jesus, we fight dragons of temptation and
defend ourselves against invasions of despair.
We rescue the child who lives chained in a cave of old wounds, and we give
him or her room to run and play again.
We claim the crown of blessing God gives to all of God’s beloved, and we
join God in taking delight in, and caring for, the world. We uncover treasure buried in the mud of
memory. Dreams we barely allowed
ourselves to dream wash over us like a breeze. Wonder overtakes us, and awe overwhelms us as
we discover the light of our true selves in the even brighter light of Jesus
who is with us on the journey.
involves confronting hard inner realities, many of us refuse to take it. We go numb instead; we get stuck and stay
stuck. We opt for the wrong kind of
contentment and comfort. We shrink back
from the challenge of life and the invitation of God. We refuse to keep company with holy
restlessness and divine longing. We
commit the sin of failure to grow. Faith
means pressing forward, which in this case, means inward, confident that the
journey leads to life as God means it to be.