In-between and en route… that’s what we all are. We leave moments, move towards others. Experiences are anticipated, happen in expected or surprising ways, and fade behind us. Like the view outside the road-trip car window when we were children, the scenes approach, are here, go by. In the midst of this human ‘en routedness’, we might learn the fine art of traveling. Travel as an art… hmmmm…..
In these days after Palm Sunday and just before entering the liturgies of the Triduum, I reflect on Jesus’ experience of his human journey. And I wonder about bringing an artist’s eye/an artist’s way to inform an approach we can take to journeying.
What do we know about art and creativity? Artistic engagement is not a spectator sport, and it’s not for wimps. It’s not always warm and comforting: being faithful to a creative path demands from and nudges and tutors the artist, and requires that who we are be poured out while still messy or incomplete. It looks for choices of color, of word, of note before we’re quite sure where that choice will lead us. And art has something to do with vision, intuition, perseverence, skills, practice, play, seriousness, discipline, flexibility, a light touch, a willingness not to grasp, rhythms, forming, and being formed by.
Madeleine L’Engle, whose writing I’ve loved since childhood [anyone remember A Wrinkle in Time?], explores her experience of the art of writing. In Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art she describes the characters in her books as periodically picking her up by the scruff of her neck and shaking her and teaching her. What an image – that which we ‘create’ shakes us up and draws us to learn and stretch! She is eloquent about the invitation to humbly serve the work (the art) that one has been given, and to learn from that in which one engages.
If we’re given a gift – and the size of the gift, great or small, is irrelevant – then most of us must serve it, like it or not…
It is a joy to be allowed to be to be the servant of the work. And it is a humbling and exciting thing to know that my work knows more than I do.
…This puts me in my proper place as a servant struggling (never completely succeeding) to be faithful to the work, the work which slowly and gently teaches me some of what it knows.
In this way, the work is not simply completed, it is discovered. It is not recorded, it is engaged. And, like any relationship, this one is never exhausted and can continually become a source of surprises and learnings. The gift is also not something necessarily chosen. It is given. It is the potential creator’s option to serve or not.
So, this being en route thing is a gift. The way we experience life invites us to enter into a relationship with creativity (and the Creator!) that parallels L’Engle’s insights above. Life travel itself can be entered in the same way as any artistic endeavor, as we are not designed to be unconscious passengers, like some sack of potatoes on a truck!
Jesus, the Eternal Word made flesh, was also an artist of human sojourning. At this point in Holy Week, I am mindful of how his traveling through life – and others’ lives – was a masterpiece of its own. Yet, while he journeyed, he was just as ‘up front and personal’ to the vagaries of travel, the excitement and doldrums, the seeming wins and seeming losses, and the piecemeal feel of a life in construction that would create a tapestry upon which we all reflect.
I imagine him a couple of days after waving palms at his entrance to Jerusalem and wonder what his own musings might be in reflecting back over the shape of his life… the form that faithfulness to the art of sojourning had produced in him. He had been given a gift – this human life spent traveling and being with us – and he served this gift, this work that was his to do and be. He approached sparrows and wheat, the hurting and the overconfident, family and friends… with gentleness and curiosity and questions. And he grew in wisdom and grace on his journey, and from the art of travel.
We can look to Jesus to discover the best of what it means to be human to its fullness… for he has been that with us. On the days after palm waving, he certainly knew Jerusalem was a very dangerous place for him to be, and that his journeys forward – just beyond this day’s horizon – would likely lead to confrontation and more. And so his learnings about life-traveling’s art, as he looked back over his own life’s canvas, are all the more valuable. These are just my imaginings of some of the lessons learned along the way. Perhaps you might add more!
- Time provides a structure with rhythms for prayer and rest, celebration and fellowship, teaching and talking, reflection and easting, fasting and creating, singing and dancing, day and night. Notice these. Seek balance. Be nourished and nourish.
- Value who and where you come from – Mary, Joseph, Nazareth, Galilee.
- Learning from Joseph how to work with wood’s contours and textures, strengths and weaknesses, prepared me well for the variety of people/s I would encounter.
- Listen to the drawings of your heart and mind, and follow them. They may lead you to baptisms and deserts, and new ways to understand and hold your identity.
- You don’t have to know where you go to start going there. Mission is embarked upon, and companions are drawn to assist in the effort and learn on the way.
- Life companions are important, and the everydayness of being with them is holy – in the joys and the frustrations.
- Creation shouts of truth and beauty, and tutors us if we listen and see. “All I needed to know I learned in kindergarten”, a future author will write. It seems much that I needed to share can be seen in God’s handiwork in creation.
- God is not distant, and desires closeness. Pray. Notice. Bring. All. Of. You. Of. Life. Of People.
- When God is trusted for daily bread – all that is necessary has been available.
- When you are really in touch with yourself and with God, you will know when someone taps your energy or life.
- Take joy in the real life stories of others.
- Have the courage to care deeply, to be impacted at heart.
- Tears are sacred.
- Places of refuge – in the homes of friends or by seas or on mountains – are necessary and help us be who we are and give who we are.
- Rest, heal, proclaim, touch, celebrate
- When there seem to be boundaries beyond which we are told not to care or to trust, the boundaries should be questioned.
- The most loyal and faithful friends, and committed disciples, can emerge from those who have experienced much, perhaps failed often.
- Really seeing another and really caring about them makes a difference larger than can be measured.
- Give all of yourself everyday. Do not hold yourself in reserve for some large gift. Develop self giving muscles.
- Do not be afraid. Trust comes from your experiences of God with you, loving you.
- Emotions come and go – and are part of life’s utter richness – but we are not them.
- Amazing rivers of living water well up in everyone, if we can all just tap them.
- Good news must be shared.
- Good news and its corresponding energy can threaten some.
- Do not be in competition for a high place, but for a servant’s place.
- Rituals are important.
- Helping others be healed, and then put words on their experiences of healing, is important work.
- Teaching is an art which begs for stories and images and a person who loves those being taught.
- Pain can be expected.
- Thankfulness can be a way of living.
- The praises or curses of others are not reliable compasses.
- Children are very VERY special.
- Following life’s journey, in touch with God and the root of one’s identity as God’s beloved one, may lead one to sometimes scary places – but, in any moment, we are safe.
- All will be well, even if this moment is very hard or difficult.
- We are to have life, and have it abundantly.