Life is a journey. That may sound like a cliché – but it doesn’t make it any less true. A poem I often use to begin funeral services describes life’s journey like this:
Birth is a beginning and death a destination. But life is a journey – a going – a growing – from stage to stage. From childhood to maturity and youth to age. From innocence to awareness and ignorance to knowing; from foolishness to discretion and then perhaps, to wisdom. From Weakness to strength or strength to weakness and, often, back again. From health to sickness and back we pray, to health again. From offense to forgiveness, from loneliness to love, from joy to gratitude, from pain to compassion, and grief to understanding. From fear to faith. From defeat to defeat to defeat – until, looking backward or ahead, we see that victory lies not as some high place along the way, but in having made the journey, stage by stage. A sacred pilgrimage. Birth is a beginning and death a destination. But life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage – made stage by stage – to life everlasting.
Life is a journey – a sacred pilgrimage. And like any journey, there are dangers along the way. Some of us have been fortunate to have teachers and mentors who have helped us negotiate our journey. But regardless of how good or wise our teachers may have been, we soon learn that, in the end, no one can make this journey for us. Life can also be a lonely journey, at times.
Sometimes we try to fill that lonely place in ourselves with people or things or experiences. Sometimes, when the pain of our loneliness feels unbearable, we medicate ourselves with alcohol or drugs or shopping or food – hoping in some way to dull the pain. Of course, the irony of addictions is that they only make the pain stronger – and so more and more of the poison is required. Needless to say, people have found just about as many unhealthy ways of dealing with the inevitable pain of life as there are people. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Dag Hammarskjold, a Swedish diplomat, author and a contemporary of Thomas Wolfe (I might add), once wrote: “Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.” What I hear in those words is that while loneliness is real, we have a choice as to how we will use our lives. Indeed, when we pray – we may even find something for which we would be willing to die.
In the church, we find both a community and a purpose. In the church we meet a community that is growing in faith, service and love. This coming Sunday is World Communion Sunday – a day when we recognize that though we may each walk alone, we are joined by countless others around the world who are connected to us in the Body of Christ. Please join us this Sunday as we celebrate God’s love around the table of our Lord.