When I was eighteen, I thought I knew everything. At least, everything that mattered.
I was fairly intelligent, and knew how to figure out whatever I needed to learn. I had a pretty solid idea of what I was going to do with my life, and how to get there. I cared about other people, was kind to those in need, cared about fairness and justice for those who seemed helpless, and had a relatively substantial moral framework.
My faith was strong. My prayer life was meaningful, my Biblical knowledge was above average, my battle against sin was fierce, and my zeal for sharing Jesus was burning.
I thought I had arrived. I was an adult (ish), I knew my purpose, I had the answers, I was saved through my faith… and now that I had found the answer, it was on me to share that with the world and bring others into the Truth that I possessed.
I had found my solid rock, my firm foundation, and commited to remaining unmoved on that rock until the end of time.
At least, until it shook and fell apart underneath me.
Life is a pilgrimage, an ongoing journey.
Life as pilgrimage was an important idea for early Celtic Christians, the indigenous church in Ireland and parts of Britain in the centuries after the Romans left the British Isles. They saw faith not as something that was achieved; rather, it was an ongoing process through which we continued to grow deeper in relationship with our Creator and more fully emulate the life of Jesus.
The life of a Christian was never meant to be static. The Holy Spirit is always on the move, in us and in the world. Our journey, our pilgrimage, is to follow it along the way. Each stop, each moment, is worth appreciating, learning from, experiencing and celebrating… But as soon as we grow too comfortable and stand still too long, the Spirit moves on and the ground under us begins to crumble.
Further up, further in.
If you haven’t read it, the end of C.S. Lewis’s final Narnia book sees Aslan the lion destroy Narnia, the land he created, with fire and water. Aslan saves those who stayed true to him, transporting them to a new land. These believing Narnians were amazed to discover that the new land was just like the Narnia they had left only more… REAL. More solid, more beautiful, more expansive, more alive.
But the survivors hadn’t fully arrived yet. They had been saved, but there was so, so much more beyond standing at the entrance. ”Further up, further in” was the invitation from those living in the Real Narnia. There is always more to explore, to discover, to learn. The more they explored, the more they understood how infinite it all was.
Further up, further in. The more we stand still, the more we miss out.
When I was 18, I thought I knew everything. At least, everything that mattered. Until I stood still for too long, the solid ground I was standing on began to crumble, and I realised how very little I actually knew.
I read deeper into the Gospels, and discovered how much more there was to Jesus’s life and teachings than I had learned in youth group.
I began learning more about context of the Bible and the origins of the Church, and discovered how many different ways a text could be read.
I began learning how many different Christian traditions there were, and discovered that people could have vastly different theologies and spiritual experiences while still living a fruitful and faithful life.
I began learning the many ways that people perceived God, and discovered that our Creator is far beyond a single understanding.
I began learning how much there was to life and this world, and discovered how much wisdom there to be gained from people outside my culture, faith, and experience.
When I was nineteen, I learned that I was just beginning my journey toward knowing myself and knowing God. I knew nothing, and couldn’t stand still.
When I was twenty-two, I learned that I was just beginning my journey toward knowing myself and knowing God. I knew nothing, and couldn’t stand still.
When I was thirty-three, I learned that I was just beginning my journey toward knowing myself and knowing God. I knew nothing, and couldn’t stand still.
When I am forty-five, I hope to re-learn that I am just beginning my journey toward knowing myself and knowing God. I still won’t really know anything, but I pray I won’t be able to stand still.
Further up and further in, always and forever.