It’s been right at five years since I started writing this blog, and a lot of water has flowed under the bridge in that time. When I began I was relatively new to ministry, serving as an associate pastor in a large church in the suburbs. Since then I have made the journey to being a solo pastor in a suburban church that is wrestling with a new urban identity. I’ve seen my kids grown up, and my hair has grayed a bit. It’s been a good journey at times and a not so good one at others. In other words, it’s been life, with all the ups and downs that come with it.
Likewise, this blog has seen an ebb and flow over time. I began it as a means of having an online community of accountability, and it continues to serve that function for me. Along the way I’ve felt free to share about my church and ministry, my political leanings, and all the ways that God has been at work in my life. There have been seasons when I have been a prolific writer, and seasons when it seems like I will go weeks without writing. Both seasons are reflections of where I am in the moment.
The reason for this meandering through history arises in the thinking that I am doing today in preparation for the pilgrimage I will be making to Israel in April. We have spent much time in prayer and reflection, thinking about what God is doing in us in bringing us the the holy lands. Certainly, this could be like any other tourist occasion, a whirlwind excursion of the sites with side jaunts into the gift shops to pick up cheap olive wood trinkets. Yet, that is not the intention of this trip. We have been brought together for a deeper purpose — to experience God in the midst of a place where God has been present throughout the ages, and as a part of a learning and praying community of support and accountability. Our trip includes spiritual direction as a part of the experience, and I am trying to wring as much as I can out of the time as I can.
As I’ve been praying and thinking, the issue of wonder continues to be a word that arises for me. The name of this blog arose from a quote by Gregory of Nyssa: “Concepts create idols. Only wonder understands.”
I continue to struggle with the need and desire to function conceptually instead of living a life of wonder. I want to have the mind of a child, being aware of the world around me and in awe of what I see.
This has come to me particularly in the person of a guy in my church who (in a desire to not embarrass him) I will call Norm. Norm grew up in the church, but like many young adults drifted away in his twenties. He had begun to plug back in as he moved into his thirties (driven in part by wife and child) when his father had a health crisis that put him on the edge of death. It was a time when the church did what it was supposed to do and rallied together to support the family. Norm was so blown away by that outpouring of love toward him and his dad that he caught the vision of what faith in Jesus is supposed to be, and has plugged back into the church with wild abandon.
As I’ve been preparing for my trip, I realized that I think Norm may be more excited than I am. “Man,” he would say to me, “what’s it going to be like to walk where Jesus walked?” He shared that he knew it would be way cool to experience the lands of the Bible first hand, and every time I see him, he asks about my trip.
I, on the other hand, have found myself pretty blase’ about the trip. I’m excited, but I haven’t really thought about it in terms of it being where Jesus walked. Instead I tend to think about things such as the political realities of the region, and wanting to avoid the tourist traps along the way.
Norm is filled with wonder about my trip. I haven’t gotten there yet.
And I want to! That is really my goal for this pilgrimage — to move from my cynical and weather worn self and begin to find the wonder again. In a sense, it’s to find the Disneyland spirit in the midst of this place that has been so infused with God’s Spirit throughout the ages. As I’ve written in my journal, I need to get in touch with my “inner Norm,” traveling with eyes wide open into the wilderness for renewal.
I hope that I will truly discern the way that only wonder understands.