Stopping

A long time ago I read that you travel for the same reason you hit yourself with a hammer–because it feels so good when you stop.

Well, traveling certainly has benefits that the hammer doesn’t, but I can understand the sentiment. After driving 2150 miles, we have stopped, if only for a day or three. It does feel wonderful to leave in the morning without having to pack everything I own. It feels good to sleep in the same bed twice in a row. It feels good to drive to a familiar place at the end of the day, and spend the night with familiar people.

For decades I have understood the spiritual life as a journey but I have to remember that being on a journey does not mean that I am ALWAYS on the go. When the children of Israel “wandered” in the desert for forty years, they actually stayed put for a good deal of the time. It was not like they just walked around, breaking camp every morning, and pitching their tents anew every evening. They found places, and stayed put. Yes, they were still on a journey, and yes they had not arrived, but they were not always on the go. Even sharks sleep, and journeys involve times of rest, especially spiritual journeys.

Movement is tricky. Are we moving TO Medford, or are we LEAVING Alaska? Yes. It is both/and, not either/or. When I am on the go, sometimes I am fleeing from something, and sometimes I running toward something, and often it is hard for me to tell which I am doing. As I look at new and creative ways to worship, am I just running from a traditional style because I don’t have the stamina to stick to any one thing for an extended period, or am I truly moving into a new way of relating to God, a way of relating that I cannot do with the old form? Yes. Again, it is both/and, not either/or.

If, at the end of my life, all my peak experiences were in my distant past, my life was wasted by an infatuation with the familiar. But, if after years of the journey, I have no place to call home, I lost all opportunity to let the various seeds I pick up on the way take root. I once had a kid in one of my groups at PHH who said he was from all over, that his parents moved constantly from place to place. I asked him if that meant he was from everywhere or nowhere, and he totally got the question, and answered wistfully, “Nowhere.”

We need places to call home (even if it has to be this place). We need the familiar. We need some roots. If | am reinventing my relationship with God on a regular basis, I really don’t have a relationship with God, I am just playing Hide and Seek. But if I am at the same place with God I was year ago I am not having a relationship with the Living God. I am just memorializing a relationship I once had.

In the end, like most things, it is about balance.

About tmrichmond3

I am the pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Medford, Oregon. I believe that faith should be able to sustain us, not oppress us.
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