Faith Journey

Ask me in winter, and I’ll tell you that Minnesota is a vortex, a quicksand of dirty, cold slush that grabs you until you’re stuck. A God-forsaken mess of subzero temperatures.

But in summer, the loons call to each other on ten thousand lakes and the light stretches into ten o’clock at night, and the whole place smells like pine. We drive north, and the landscape drops rocky into Lake Superior, and only the rugged souls can manage a swim because even in July, the water is take-your-breath-away cold.

Once I went swimming in Lake Superior during a rainstorm. Under a double rainbow. I’m not even kidding. It was like a postcard, and it’s moments like these that that suck you in, and then, before you know it, it’s January, and you’re swearing under your breath about the whole thing.

I rage against it, but the truth is that I chose Minnesota at 18 when I packed my bags and drove my green Honda here for college. This place belongs to me now, and my life has found meaning and definition in the cold, the warmth, the pine, the water.

And we say that faith is a journey, and, as far as well-worn metaphors go, it’s a good one. I like the way it reminds us all that faith is long and winding. That it’s less of a defining moment; more of a kind of movement.

But sometimes I find myself using that phrase – faith journey – to distance myself from others.

“She’s on her own journey,” I might say of the one who doesn’t champion my causes, agree with my insights, share my opinions. It’s subtle, but what I think I might really be saying is, She’s not quite there yet. She has not arrived, doesn’t know what I know, hasn’t yet seen the light.

What I really mean is that she’s not like me.

*

There’s this moment when Highway 35 rises out of the birch trees, and you can see all of it spread before you. The lake. The bridge. Smokestacks pouring white into the air. That rocky shoreline, both marred and enhanced by the work of life going on around it, and it makes me wonder, sometimes, if faith isn’t more like a landscape.

What if faith is soil, air, water? The streets you walk on, the lot you park your car every day? What if it’s a kind of place, and it’s full of people, and everyone’s just trying to make a life here the best that they can?

You are here. Some days, you can’t remember why. You think about leaving, relocating to someplace warmer, someplace easier, someplace new. Certainly things would be better in, say, Hawaii.

But in the end, you stay because it is your home, because you’ve chosen it. Because it’s chosen you.

The ice-storm comes, turns to slush, turns to water, running clear and clean in the gutters. The lilacs pop purple. The voice of the loon rises out of your sadness, and faith is all of these things at one time or another. Beautiful and terrible. Life-giving and exhausting. Easy and hard.

The winter comes, goes, comes. You stay another day, another month, another year. You drink water pumped from ten thousand lakes and find that you are filled.

21 thoughts on “Faith Journey

  1. A rather convicting moment, there, with the “faith journey” subtleties. Been there, said that, guilty as charged.

    Beautiful post. You give me pause, this morning, and a better view of Minnesota.

  2. That whole “faith journey” thing is a kind way of saying “you’ll figure it out someday, and then we’ll agree.” Still got “I’m right, you’re wrong” wrote all over it, huh.

    1. I think sometimes it can be. Sometimes I think it’s really a genuine metaphor. I guess it’s all in the heart behind it.

  3. I remember being a 20-something believer of a few years and finally thinking I had figured it all out. That I had all the answers. Then a few years down the line, I looked back and realized how wrong I had been, and how I had finally, really figured it all out. Even went around telling people that disagreed with me “Oh, I used to believe like you (but now I know so much more than you).” Then in a few more years I realized that I was wrong about all that, too. And on some things I went back to the original position, and on others I went in a different direction. Then, after I don’t know how many sessions of “figuring it all out”, I began to realize that no one ever figures it all out. I realized that my beliefs are now an issue of what I currently believe, not an issue of finally having all the right answers.

    1. I agree. Faith is so circular. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you have to start all over again.

  4. Oh my goodness. YES.

    I live in Texas for now, but my heart is always back in upstate New York, where the weather sucks you in in July and spits you out in January, where double rainbows are commonplace, where the Adirondacks tower on one side of you, and the St. Lawrence Seaway spreads on the other side.

    This line: “But in the end, you stay because it is your home, because you’ve chosen it. Because it’s chosen you.” Oh my. My heart. My heart is so over Texas these days, though I love my church and my job. And I know that there isn’t much for me back in NY, but I long, my heart longs to just go home.

    Thank you, friend. Thank you.

    1. I can absolutely understand what it feels like to live someplace that doesn’t feel quite like home. Especially Texas–what a different landscape from the north. I hope you can find beauty and glimpses of glory even still.

  5. I love the idea of faith as a landscape. Landscape is what I write about, what moves me more than most things, what I’m always looking for out the window. It’s a good challenge for me to think about faith in this way, and I know it will open up many new connections and ways of seeing this ever-changing thing.

    1. I love landscape too. Place. The complexity of it. The beauty. When I wrote this I thought, this is barely scratching the surface of this metaphor.

      (Also, I just checked out your blog, and your writing is gorgeous. Can’t wait to read more!)

  6. I remember when ‘faith journey’ was such an innovative new expression; so useful. Once, I suppose like most things we say, it wasn’t a cliche at all. I think it was intended to be a grace phrase, a willingness to recognize that, as the clock on my wall says, “things take time.”

    1. I still think it’s a useful expression, and I think it does communicate grace. I just found myself using it when thinking about those who disagreed with my Relevant post, and then I caught myself. Was I really giving them grace? Or was I just rationalizing that they weren’t quite as enlightened as I am? Not far along enough on their “journey” to see things like I do.

      And that’s not right. In the end, I know I don’t have it exactly, perfectly right, and neither does anyone else. I was trying to think of another way to think about it; a way that allowed for us to be inhabiting the same space, the same great faith. We are each discovering different parts of it, finding beauty and truth in different aspects.

  7. I love this idea of faith as not so much a journey but a place. Sure, the journey allows for wandering and detours, but there’s still the implied destination—that one place where we’re all supposed to eventually arrive. With a place, there’s still room for movement. You can move things around, hang new art on the walls or plant new perennials in the soil. The seasons change, you change, and all the while you’re striving to make it all feel as right as it can feel. I like the idea of growth that doesn’t necessarily involve leaving…

    1. Yes, I agree. I shy away from any the implication that we can ever really “arrive,” at least in this lifetime. Growth not necessitating leaving. Love that.

  8. I like the notion of faith journey, as long as I think of it not as a car or airplane trip, but as a walk. Sometimes I stop to look around. Sometimes I stop to watch the loon. Sometimes I retrace my steps, backing up to get what seemed like a clearer view of things. On occasion I run, get winded, and stop to stretch or rest. I can keep pace with friends when I walk. Sometimes they’re pulling me by the hand saying “come see this.” Sometimes they’re pulling me by the hand to keep me from stepping in the dog crap because I am distracted looking not where I’m going. I often walk the same route, in the same place, not because I am lazy or afraid to venture from the familiar, but because I want to more deeply know a place, to feel like it is mine and I belong there.

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