A Journey of Inches



I've been reading In The Shelter, the excellent spiritual memoir by the Irish poet and author Padraig O'Tuama.  

O'Tuama outlines his journey of faith as a process of welcoming or saying "hello" to the various obstacles, challenges, and triumphs that are often encountered when we stumble after the Divine. 

He also eloquently describes how his faith journey has been and continues to be an exercise in learning to surrender, embracing wonder, and finding comfort in impermanence.  

One of the poems O'Tuama included in the book spoke to me, and so I  wrote down the stanza with which I felt a real sense of resonance and connection.  Here it is: 

And he is inching towards glory
With only his own story on his back 
He has patched up holes that opened
Where his coverings have cracked 
And some shoes were never meant for hiking so 
He left them far behind
There are simple things he needs 
On journeys such as these
Food and love and drink and warmth and comfort
And a bag that’s small enough 
To carry all the failures and the idols 
That he’s picked up on the way 

There are some days
He only moves 
An inch or two. 

I can't tell you how much I love that.  It's the description of my own journey that I wish I  had written.  It makes my heart hurt for the beauty of it if I am being honest.  It makes me feel seen.  

Let me share some of the thoughts that I've jotted down as I've reflected on this poem, and what it means to me.  

"And some shoes were never meant for hiking so/He left them far behind." 

Sometimes, what got us where we are in our faith journey won't get us where we need to go.  We just might need to let some things go if they aren't meant for the terrain ahead. 

This is what a lot of us Christian-y types don't seem to get: It's okay to grow and change when it comes to your faith and your beliefs.  In fact, you probably won't grow in faith all that much if your beliefs are stagnant and staid.  

"And a bag that's small enough/To carry all the failures and the idols/That he's picked up along the way." 

This is so wonderful!  A bag "small enough" to carry the memories of your failures or the things you thought you needed more than God... I love this.  

While we may carry them around with us on our faith journey, they shouldn't take up a lot of room, and they definitely don't need to be a burden.  We won't forget our failures, and we won't forget the things we placed before God along the way, but we shouldn't be weighed down by them.  

"There are some days/He only moves/An inch or two." 

The journey of faith can sometimes feel like a slow crawl.  Progress doesn't always come easily, and we can often become impatient, frustrated, and feel as though we want to give up moving.  

But even an inch or two forward is progress.  And those inches add up, trust me.  I have had moments in my life where I looked around and realized I'd inched my way forward far enough that I was shocked at how far I'd actually come.  

May your journey of faith be one of letting go and embracing.  May it be a journey of slow inches and sudden realizations.  May you discover Jesus on the road, and may you stumble after him in joy.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.   

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Lord Needs It: Lessons From A Donkey

You & Who You Are: Rob Bell on Identity & Transition

Rapha & Yada - "Be Still & Know": Reimagined