A trail unseen (follow)March 24, 2017
When I first heard I would be going to Serbia I travelled up to Nottingham to meet a woman who had some a similar trip some five years before. If memory serves she had stayed in the house of a local minister and her experience had been fostered in that communion of a church family. The effect the trip had taken on her was clearly visible and while it gave me some broad brushstrokes for my preparation prayers, the realisation, even at that time, was that my visit would be immeasurably different. I left with clear knowledge that this encounter would provide me with no road-map for my travels.
It’s a simple desire with many who travel to wish for a road-map in advance, and the longer you spend living between cultures the more you realise the simultaneous futility and terrible need for one to be given. For many on mission trips the road-map is presented, to some extent at least, within the organisation they go to serve within. For others, the mission itself is undefined, to draw a map or simply traverse the land. We imagine this trail unseen, undiscovered, not yet laden with footprints, not yet cleared with human traffic. We paint ourselves explorers lead by God’s great call, when in reality we are stumbling forward hoping God will use wherever we land.
In the the messy daily gritty-ness of living we can find ourselves aching for the guidance a road map may bring, a need to feel in some way routed and not totally clueless on where we should be going. On basic level it’s a control craving, to live with more certainty and less reliance on that faith that got us here in the first place.
As I follow my saviour on the long 40 day Lenten journey to the cross I simultaneously walk a pathway well worn, with smooth stones and prayers untold held in the memory of every speck of dust, while continuing on the pathway of everyday which seems to hold no fixed destination nor plot any course. The two hold each up upright, the certainty and the security of one breathe stability and flexibility in the other. It is only through trusting faith we can slowly become less about pursuing the way forward through the undergrowth and more about following the sound of that faint whisper, searching it out.
I know even as I move that my path is not direct, my route not efficient, rather it is like a child’s innocent dance – it swirls and falters and it’s elegance is equally clumsy. I move littering the ground as I pass with echo’s of my presence. Easily I fall pray to relying on my own council, my own image of the divine becomes both a comfort blanket and justification for stomping over the ground with such bad grace. I may snap twigs and trample undergrowth, weaken bridges or clear pathways, I may cause ripples of conversations and interrupt others. But the call beckons me to keep on towards a light, a whisper, a radiance of power that words can not contain. I follow those dusty sandals that lead me up Golgotha’s hill, those ancient words that open up wells that quench thirsty souls, than indescribable that calls me to come. Perhaps my trail may never be a pathway for another soul but really that was never the point, perhaps I’ll turn round to realise that as I followed I lost my own way completely without even realising it.