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Walking the Way of Christ
By Steve Chalke Joanna Wyld
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Chapter One JOURNEYING
A man once dreamt of leaving his home to go in search of the Golden City, which lay on the other side of a vast forest. His own life was tedious. He had grown tired of his surroundings, responsibilities and relationships. No one in his town had ever been to the Golden City, but the tales of its size and beauty had been told for generations.
Eventually, his desire to experience this wonderful place for himself became irresistible. So one morning, the man woke early and, after saying goodbye to his wife and young children, set out on his journey of discovery.
The man travelled for many hours, slowly making his way through the dense forest that separated his own town from the Golden City. He had no idea how long his journey would take nor what might await him at its end. But his determination to keep going was constantly fuelled by the inspirational stories he had heard of his intended destination. Eventually, despite his great enthusiasm, he became overwhelmed by exhaustion. So, finding a clearing, he settled down under a large tree to rest.
However, not wanting to awaken disoriented and so lose his direction, he took off his shoes and laid them side by side, pointing in the direction he was travelling. Assured that he would now avoid getting lost, he closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep.
But while he slept, two young boys out playing in the forest entered the clearing and stumbled across him. Seeing the man asleep and his shoes lying neatly beside him, they decided to play a trick on him. Silently, they crept closer to him with the intent of hiding his shoes. But just as one of the boys picked them up and turned to retreat, he stepped on a dry twig which cracked beneath his foot. The man began to stir. Startled, the boy hurriedly dropped the shoes and, with his friend, fled. The man half woke, sat upright, and blearily looked around him, but, seeing nothing, soon went back to sleep.
Early the following morning, the man awoke and, carefully putting on his shoes so that they continued to point in what he thought was the same direction, he set off once more. He walked for the whole day until finally, as dusk fell, he came to the edge of the forest, and there, before his very eyes, at last, was the Golden City.
As he got closer, the man began to feel strangely at home. Things here were exactly as he had imagined. It wasn't that the city was any bigger than his own, but he had a strong feeling of belonging - a sense of coming home. His eyes lit up as he walked past what felt like familiar shops and houses.
But best of all, he came across a very familiar street where he found a familiar house. He knocked on a familiar door and was greeted by a familiar-looking family. He smiled a deep smile because he felt at peace. And he thanked God that after his long and difficult journey, he had finally reached his destination.
Life is a journey.
But is this journey just an aimless meandering, or is it something more? Are we merely drifting through each year as it passes, or dare we hope that life is a journey with purpose and a destination?
For much of our lives, we repress such difficult questions. Instead, we fill our time with frenetic distractions and diverting amusements.
However, every now and then - perhaps over a meal or a drink with a friend of many years; or disturbed by a long, sleepless night; or faced with a personal difficulty or family tragedy; or gazing up at the moon and countless stars on a clear summer's night - the questions find a way of breaking through.
One way or another, life's awkward questions have a habit of catching up with us.
Much of life's journey, it turns out, is a quest to find ourselves and our place in the world. The journey of life is a process of self-discovery.
Each one of us needs a convincing story which tells us who we are, an overarching narrative with structure, purpose and direction. For, without a story - a sense of who we are and how we fit in - we are lost. At best we survive, but we will never thrive.
Many choose to fill the void left by the absence of a story with the pursuit of money, sex or power. Yet it is still apparent that the real search, even then, is for the deeper treasures of security, love and a sense of significance.
Furthermore, when we are ensnared by the dizzying dance of life, blinded in its glittering glare, our sense of being lost is magnified. Yet this sense of 'lostness' should never be despised. It can be a wonderful gift. The realisation that we are lost brims with hope and opportunity. For this very sense of being lost, when embraced rather than ignored, can become the impetus that spurs us on to take the next step forward on our journey.
THE QUEST FOR MEANING
In the movie The Motorcycle Diaries, the young Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado embark on an epic journey across South America. They begin in high spirits, but their travels bring into focus disturbing questions about life. At one point, Guevara sums up the nature of journeying in this way: 'Each moment seems split in two: melancholy for what is left behind and the excitement of entering a new land.'
The two men encounter extremes of weather and constant danger; their motorbike fails; they fall ill and struggle to find shelter and food. But they also discover new priorities through encountering communities stricken by poverty, prejudice and gross social injustice - experiences that form the social idealism for which they would eventually become famous. As Guevara observes: 'We could feel the world changing ... or was it us?'
A journey of any length will take in many landscapes, not all of which will be beautiful and awe-inspiring. But, though life is often tedious or even treacherous, each experience remains an integral part of the journey.
If a journey implies a destination, then a destination implies a direction, and a direction implies decisions. But every decision we make entails the limiting of options. To choose one road, we must reject another. As Thomas Aquinas observed, 'Every choice is a renunciation.' Which means that to move forward with a genuine sense of purpose and direction, we must make sacrifices.
Perhaps that is why ambling through life, ignoring these questions, appears, to so many, to be the easiest option.
While we are more than happy to accept the joys and the highs, the successes and the good times of life, we constantly question the pain, the sorrow and the suffering. Yet these too have important lessons to teach us. And because life is a journey rather than a guided tour, we have to be alert to any clues we might find along our path, even when they come to us through the medium of pain and disappointment. Ignoring these clues will leave us impoverished.
Only by learning to negotiate life's peaks and troughs can we progress on our journey. It is as we wrestle with the never-ending questions that we move forward, and only through searching can we find our way.
To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping. Chinese Proverb
As we search, we find that some questions trouble us more persistently than others. Above all, there's that big, disturbing question that keeps resurfacing. It's the question encapsulated in the lyrics of countless songs, the lines of poems and the scripts of new movies each year. It's found on the lips and in the thoughts of millions of people around the world, even as you are reading these words:
Homo sapiens are, by nature, meaning-seeking creatures. And, of all the questions we ever ask, the most important has to be: Why am I here? The advances of science have done a wonderful job of telling me what I am. But, in order to thrive I also need to know who I am, and, even more fundamentally, why I am.
'Do I matter? What should I do with my life? What have I done with my life?'
'Have I blown it? Is there any hope for me?'
Excerpted from Apprentice by Steve Chalke Joanna Wyld Copyright © 2009 by Steve Chalke. Excerpted by permission.
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