It hardly seems possible that nearly a year has gone by since Trevor, Irene and I drove out of McAdam, heading for Saint John having completed the 2015 pilgrimage. Now we are on the verge of heading to the Miramichi and North Shore. Unlike last year we have a better idea of the physical demands that walking will involve and I have been in training since before Christmas, unlike last year when I just turned up.
For me the pilgrimage has two main elements: having time to spend with God; and the opportunity to meet people along the way. What I discovered last time was that the structure of walking and resting meant that I was much more disciplined in my prayer and study times than I am usually. It is interesting that since then I have felt the need to be much more accountable to myself and God about tending to my soul.
You may wonder what I mean by that. Day to day much of our effort goes into tending to our physical and material well-being. In addition many of us spend a great deal of time thinking about how we respond to the many situations which come our way. At times it can feel as if we are in a video game with hoards of alien spacecraft coming towards us.
On last year’s walk I found that everything slowed down and I was able to look more deeply inwards than usual. In my imagination I visualized it as moving through a very tangled wood and suddenly coming upon a sunlit pool. It is an encounter with the God who is there.
So often in our worship we focus outwards. We sing out to the Lord, we speak out prayers, we take up postures of kneeling, sitting or standing. There is nothing wrong with any of this, but if we do not take time to ponder, rest and listen then we miss the deeper moments with God. It is at these times that we are able to share our soul wounds with God. To thank him for his love and grace and just to be in his presence.
It is in essence loitering without purpose. So much of what we do in our worship is driven by the tyranny of words, time and agenda. Our lives have become machine like, what am I getting out because of what I put in? Spiritual health is about relationship with God and is centred upon peace. Perhaps we all have to have to courage to step off our particular treadmills and seek out the quiet place, the desert place, for the health of the soul.