20. The Heart of the Journey

Perhaps you won’t be surprised to know that the core experience of journeying into reality is the same for you as it was for Jesus, who “pioneered” and “led the way” with his own journey (see the Letter to the Hebrews). Jesus is described as “learning obedience through suffering.” He did not want to suffer, as suffering has no value in itself. It was simply the price he was prepared to pay for the sake of being faithful to his mission. He knew he could trust his Father even when his situation seemed hopeless.

In the strength that came from complete trust, he was able to surrender his life freely. And in return, his prayer was heard:

During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the One who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learned to obey through suffering; and having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him, the source of eternal salvation. (Hebrews 5:7-9)

Growing in trust is the surest sign that we are journeying in the right direction.

Growing in trust is the surest sign that we are journeying in the right direction. We move, gradually, from the wrong kind of self-sufficiency to reliance on the One who can still be trusted even when our situation is hopeless. Letting God be God is the most real thing we can do. Accepting our dependence on God is accepting our true selfhood.

When we open ourselves more to the power of God, our moments of greatest crisis become moments of greatest opportunity. At these times we can be like the climber being rescued from the face of a cliff who stubbornly holds on to the rock instead of letting himself fall into into the hands of the rescuers. We need to let go, entrust our whole self and life and destiny into the hands of the One who already has his arms around us in order to lift us to where we could never lift ourselves. It is when so much seems at stake that we most fear to let go, and have the most to gain by letting God be God. To trust God like that is to honour God; it is an act of worship.

I love you, Lord, my strength,
my rock, my fortress, my saviour.
My God is the rock where I take refuge;
my shield, my mighty help, my stronghold.
You, O Lord, are my lamp,
my God who lightens my darkness.
With you I can break through any barrier,
with my God I can scale any wall.

Psalm 18:1–2, 28–29

Often it is through the experience of disappointment (when God does not meet our expectations) that we are brought further into reality, and to the realisation that “God’s ways are not our ways” - because they can only be better. For the apostle Paul, the struggle and the experience of human weakness gave scope to the power of Christ, and gave Paul his greatest joy:

I have pleaded with the Lord three times for (this difficulty) to leave me, but he has said, “my grace is sufficient for you: my power is at its best in weakness.” So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

The prophet Jeremiah had learned this in a different way:

The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh as follows, “Get up and make your way down to the potter’s house, and there I shall tell you what I have to say.” So I went down to the potter’s house; and there he was, working at the wheel. But the vessel he was making came out wrong, as may happen with clay when a potter is at work. So he began again and shaped it into another vessel, as he thought fit. Then the word of Yahweh came to me as follows, “House of Israel, can I not do to you what this potter does? Yahweh demands. Yes, like clay in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine, House of Israel.” (Jeremiah 18:1-6)

Biding God’s time and getting on with life are ways of treating God as one who will not fail us. There is joy in living in anticipation of the ultimate outcome of everything, as the fourteenth-century English mystic, Julian of Norwich, knew:

And so our good Lord answered all the questions and doubts I could raise, saying most comfortingly: I may make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well; and you will see yourself that every manner of thing will be well. (Showings)

To trust God is to live more deeply. It frees us from wanting to know more than we need to know ahead of time:

Lead kindly Light,
amid the encircling gloom…
The night is dark, and I am far from home…
I do not ask to see
the distant scene;
one step enough for me.

John Henry Newman

For Practice

  • Imagine the potter’s hands, caressing, moulding, and redirecting you, the clay. Are there mistakes, hurts, or disappointments in your life that the Potter has reworked, or might want to rework? Whose “hands” do you expect the Potter might want to use?
  • Find out more about Charles de Foucauld, and make his prayer (right) your own.

For Prayer

Father, I abandon myself into your hands,
do with me whatever you want.
For whatever you do,
I thank you.
I am ready for, I accept, all.

Let only your will be done in me
and in all your creatures,
and I’ll ask nothing else, my Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I give it to you, Lord, with the love of my heart,
for I love you, my God,
and so need to give,
to surrender myself into your hands
with a trust beyond all measure,
because you are my Father.

Charles de Foucauld