Monday, March 14, 2011

“Journey” as a Metaphor for Spiritual Growth and Development

I am serving currently on the Coordinating Council for the Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. This past Saturday was the second meeting of the Council that I have attended. Terry Maples, the CBF Field Coordinator in Tennessee, had asked me to open the meeting with a devotional time. He suggested that I might want address our TCBF journey into the future with God and in faith.

I have always thought that the journey metaphor offered a helpful way of speaking about the way we live our lives in faith. Life, like time, is constantly on the move; but life, like time, in order to be productive and fulfilling must also have some sense of direction. In turn, direction implies some goal or orientation that serves as a compass for our living, our expenditure of time and energy, our search for meaningful and purposeful existence. In my next few posts I would like to “spin off” some of the issues that I worked through in preparing for the TCBF devotional time and focus more intently on the journey motif than I was able to do at the meeting.

My first thoughts in relation to journey were in the context of the biblical characters who engaged in actual journeys. Noah, Abraham, and Joseph immediately came to mind. As I brain stormed about the journey motif, however, I began to recognize that every biblical character had a journey of one sort or another. Adam and Eve, though perhaps intended as permanent residents of the Garden of Eden, found themselves on a journey that led then from Eden to east of Eden. That certainly was a challenging transition in almost every way. Abel took a short journey into the field with his brother, and the potential dangers of journeys even with your closest relative certainly emerged as a consequence. Noah started out somewhere east of Eden on a journey that took him in a direction and to a destination that he did not choose. Mount Ararat happened to be the place where his ark landed. Terah, Abram’s father, had a compulsion to go to Canaan; but he only made it about halfway when he stopped at Haran after leaving Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram received a command to “go” to a land that God would show him; and his intended destination proved to be the same as that of his father, but this time under the direct intention of God.

Interestingly, in the face of a famine Isaac received a command from God to “stay” (Gen. 26:2-6); but that did not mean that he was journey-less. Not only did he experience the spiritual journey into a renewed covenant with the Lord, but he also experienced that difficult journey of an old age darkened both by blindness and the competitive nature of his two sons. Changes in circumstance and the events surrounding us often turn staying in our current places into journeys that are more difficult than moving to a distant land.
(To be continued)

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