After the fallout: Finding God's path and reclaiming our faith (part 14: the journey)
Practice: Journey together with others you deeply know and by whom you are deeply known.
“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something. That there is some good in this world, and it's worth fighting for.”
Sam to Frodo, from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
In all great stories, the hero is not alone. The hero has a traveling companion or companions that help the hero down the path. What does this tell us about life? It tells us we're never meant to travel alone.
The journey is always to be shared.
The journey is the center circle of the 7 practices of the Best of Ways for a reason. It is the place that all the other practices are connected. It is the center, the place of origin and destination and the place to live all rolled into one. To journey with God and others through this life is the only way to go about living well.
As I write this these words, I just got off a weekly phone call with 6 other men. We are reading Scripture, reflecting on it, and asking ourselves what God is growing in us right now. Because our question is what is God growing in us, we call this group a SEED group. And what we have found: God is sowing seed all the time and we have choices. We are seeing that to embrace God’s words means taking action. This journey is good for our souls.
I think that at the end of the day, journeying with other help the principles of seeds, the sower and soil to take root in our heart. The principles drive us forward and help us to navigate our next steps. In other words, I hope to demystify what it means to journey with others. There are things in the Christian world that have become highly prescriptive and follow the pattern of the industrial-mechanical model. More groups, more people, more studies, and on and on and on.
Let’s just step back and see what we can do to journey well together. And please understand this, I am laying down a pattern or a rhythm that we follow. This is not the end way you have to do journeying with others. But it is a place to start.
How did this group come about? Let me share with the story just so you know how simple and straight forward it can be intentional about sharing the journey with God and others.
First, someone had to say, we need to do this. Yes, someone had to convene the meetings. An invitation is where it all began. I sent a text out to the folks in the group and said, here is what I am thinking - let’s gather weekly - let’s read, let’s share what God is growing in us. Then I asked, “Are you in.”
Second, there has space given for someone to say I am in. I love this language of being in and saying it out loud. I learned this language from Lyman Coleman, the author of the Serendipity Bible and the founder of the Serendipity Publishing House. Lyman has a way of making things meaningful through ritual. Lyman always asked questions at the beginning and the end of any small group session, and you would answer the questions and then say, “I am in.” It was the way of saying, I am committed to what God is growing in me.
Third, have the meeting. Follow through is key. Listen, if you start ducking out on meeting because there is other stuff going on, then pretty soon the time will lose its meaning. Listen we are all busy and have things going on, but we have to be committed to the group by showing up consistently.
Fourth, talk about what God is saying to you all through His word(s) and honesty answer the question, "Are you embracing it?" That is not the exact question we ask when we gather, but we are reading about 3 chapters of John a week and asking what stuck out, what got your attention. Then naturally transition to what God is stirring up in us. Or in other words, what is God planting in you and are tending to it? Are you hearing it and accepting it, or is that life getting stolen, uprooted or choked out? [ I really like this simple phrasing might need to work it in earlier in the book.]
Fifth, you have to be willing to call people out. I have been in too many groups where we have enabled people to live stuck lives - where the seed is stolen, uprooted or choked out and we don't seem to care. We have known truth we needed to speak but did not know how to express it. So what do we do? We sit on it and say nothing. And thus we hurt ourselves and those that we journey with. We have to be willing to step in and ask some tough questions.
FLESH OUT 1-5 WITH SOME MORE EXAMPLES
So, what I have described is one way in which you can be more intentional about journeying with others throughout life. Most of us need this first step and space to learn to be intentional about these relationships. Over time, these relationships will develop and deepen. And we will find as seasons pass, the journey becomes more natural. These ‘deep’ friendships where you can share the journey. Most all of us need this greenhouse of sorts to get us started down this path.
To be honest, I have done a few of these groups over the years at the church I work for/at/in. But it had been a while. As I gathered a group of people, I know I did so because I needed it. I needed to dive deeper with just few people. I needed to be known. I am in a lot of places and with lots of people where deep heart work goes on, but I am usually in the role of facilitator and coach, not a participant. There is a desperate need for me to participate and invest in more own development.
If I don’t have time to journey - in honesty and vulnerability with others - then I have no right to be a guide of anything. Guides are only guides because they are actively learning. If I am not journeying with others, I have stopped learning at a more in-depth level. Yes, I might gain more knowledge, but I growing requires traveling with others, because this is where wisdom is shared and received.
One of the most captivating reads I have engaged in as of late has been Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. This book tells the tale of Lewis and Clark’s adventure to find the Northwest Passage. It is a fascinating read at so many levels. One of my favorite moments is when Lewis is inviting Clark on the journey. He had not seen his friend in years, and he writes a letter, telling of what the commission to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean would be and how he wanted Clark to go with. Listen to how the letter ends:
Thus, my friend, you have a summary view of the plan, the means and the objects of this expedition. If therefore there is anything under those circumstances, in this enterprise, which would induce you to participate with me in its fatigues, it’s dangers and it’s honors, believe me, there is no person on earth with whom I should feel equal pleasure in sharing them as with yourself.1
We must have strong, faithful, and courageous people at our back at all times in this life. If we do not, then we will fail. All the 6 practices are good, but they do not hold together without the center. If we forsake the journey component, then we forsake the fullness of life.
I do not think I can fully hear and embrace the Word(s) of God without others around me.
As John Donne said:
No man is an island entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent.
We can not live in isolation. We must journey with others. Thus the other practices are shared in the community. There is a WE-ness to the practices.
Listen to Acts 2:42-47:
42 The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers. 43 A sense of awe came over everyone. God performed many wonders and signs through the apostles. 44 All the believers were united and shared everything. 45 They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute the proceeds to everyone who needed them. 46 Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.
All the practices are in this passage. But notice how they were together in this journey. All things are plural - they, not he or she - all the believers - met together - ate together. The Way was literally not described like this: They gathered on the first day of the week and then they were really spiritual all the days of the week in their homes by themselves. No, they were together, daily. They were in each others lives. This is what journeying looks like.
Questions/activities that move you from sentiment to action journeying through life with others:
Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.
- Edward Abbey
[ I would like to make this a special looking section each time that has this quote and really sticks out.]1. Are you journeying with people or are you living an isolated life? If your life is isolated, why is that?
2. Who are 3 people that you know in your life right now you need to start a conversation with how you can be more intentional about journeying together? Make a list and contact them right now.
3. If you have not watched Brene Brown’s Ted Talk on this topic, then google this: Brene Brown the power of vulnerability. After you have seen the video then answer this question:
What stops you from being honest and vulnerable with people? How can be a bit more honest and vulnerable with others if you know it will lead to more wholeness in your life?
 Common English Bible. (2011). (Ac 2:42–47). Nashville, TN: Common English Bible.
1 [ Undaunted Courage
Stephen E. Ambrose