Posts Tagged With: Sensible Shoes

Pilgrims Along the Way

IMG_4070While I’m redecorating my home as a pilgrimage way station, I find myself in a comfortable and familiar role – leading the planning and execution of a project at my own pace and in my own way. For now a lot of this work, especially the design, has been a solo endeavor with some great co-laborers to bring the larger projects to fruition.

As the bookcases are filled with books, I sit in this space and imagine the people who will fill the chairs and sofas. I want friends and family to gather for meals, conversations, and creative endeavors. I see much laughter and inspiration as dreams come to fruition in this place. It’s an idealized picture without any problems.

Yet, I know that if real relationships are to flourish, there will be difficult times. Conflicts that erupt in small group meetings over biblical interpretation or understanding of the world. Meals that don’t turn out. People that don’t show up. Misunderstandings over family priorities. Opening my house means opening my life and being vulnerable. With this realization, slowly the ideal pictures fade and fear takes over. In this fear I could easily sink into my safe solitariness and defend it by claiming the need to restore my energy as an introvert.

In journeys of pilgrimage, people come together in places of vulnerability. As we seek to get closer to the deep story that is drawing us on a life journey, the false ones must be stripped away if we are to go any further. Just as Aslan tore the dragon skin from Eustace Scrub in C. S. Lewis’ novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, we must allow God and the community around us to remove that which is keeping us from a full life.

Now that I’m in the midst of creating a new space, I wonder how to develop not only an environment that is welcoming, but also a character that is open to stripping away the comfortable fear and the pride that keep people at a distance? I won’t be able to control the individuals who enter this place as I do the redecoration – not unless I want to destroy relationships. Though I may not always be comfortable with it, I know that other travelers are an essential part of the journey – and not only in pilgrimage, but also in the life of a Christian. From the beginning, God knew it was not good that Adam was alone. Furthermore, as part of God’s new covenant, we are even called the Body of Christ, together.

51hOom4ewOL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_In this time of redesigning not only my basement, but also my life, I’ve stumbled upon the second novel by Sharon Garlough Brown, Two Steps Forward: A Story of Persevering in Hope. The continuation of the story started in Sensible Shoes finds four women, Meg, Hannah, Mara, and Charissa, moving through the crises in their lives as they seek to be more attentive to God through spiritual disciplines and in community. Practicing these disciplines isn’t a secret key to resolve all their family, career, and relationship issues. Neither are these disciplines easy or the community in which they find themselves always comforting.

Yet, in the midst of the messiness of their lives, I felt each woman’s struggle to hold on to hope – not hope in the world, but in Christ. This hope allows each of them to loosen the grip on the false stories in which they have been living. In broken lives, with humble postures, and through faithful community with God and one another, their lives are reborn in the midst of struggle. This is the type of life I long for myself and others to know.

In this story I see possibilities for community. Images of real people practicing prayer, stepping forward in pain, and caring for one another. In short, they are sharing life together.

It’s soon time to think about making invitations to the first group of fellow pilgrims to this way station. What will we do? How will we gather? I want to fill this space with more than a picture-perfect version of community. Maybe we could even begin with this novel as we find a new way together.

Categories: Pilgrimage Sharings | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wearing the Right Shoes for the Journey

510tVOHvy0LWhat a great read – Sensible Shoes: A Story About the Spiritual Journey by Sharon Garlough Brown.  In this novel I met  four women who attend a course at a local retreat center – a three month spiritual exploration of spiritual disciplines.  As you might expect, they all come for different reasons and from different backgrounds.  Woven into their lives over these months are new spiritual practices that the guide of this sacred journey, Katherine, shares and encourages them to experience as a way to draw closer to God.

  • Walking a labyrinth
  • Practicing lectio divina
  • Praying imaginatively
  • Working through the examen
  • Entering spiritual direction
  • Creating a rule of life

None of these women find it easy to slip into these new practices.  In fact they each fight some of disciplines as they encounter pain and discomfort.  Slowly they begin the process of clearing away brambles and roadblocks – both sin and circumstances – as they gain a greater awareness of God and walk along the transformed paths before them.  Over the months this group of women form an unlikely community that encourages one another through the pain of meeting hidden sins and the joy of removing years of masks.

I was drawn to enter the lives of these women – a pastor, mother, graduate student,  widow – caring for them as they address their grief and guilt together.  Though I have read about and practice many of these disciplines,  it was compelling to see these disciplines not in the abstract, but in the mess of life. Over the years I have wanted to practice being more attentive to God through these tools, but they have so easily become one more thing to check off my daily or weekly task list.  Seeing them in action in community provided a new perspective in relation to my own spiritual practices and writing.

With regard to spiritual practices I want to dive back into some of these disciplines, but this time with others.  If I’m honest, my lone wolf MO really doesn’t work very often.  It leads to one-sided views of the world and a smaller self as I attempt to perfectly practice these disciplines.  I want to ‘get it’ and go on.  As I entered this narrative, I entered the lives of women who were also trying to go it alone, and failing.  Hannah and Charissa, who are so eager to be perfect and hide behind masks of spirituality, reflected part of myself back to me.  Yet, they didn’t stay stuck.  New people in their lives and time away from their normal ways of working helped God to break through – Charissa with her scholarly perfection and Hannah with her productive ministry.

Oh, to be in a group that encourages and challenges me in a new way.  A group that helps be fall into the arms of the Beloved – Jesus Christ.  It wouldn’t be bad, either, if a single, male professor came on the scene to sweep me away – or for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to be the next step.  But also the simple practices of sharing coffee and spending time with others is something for which I yearn.  I would love to step into or even gather a group like this. But I’m not sure how to get it started this when I myself am fearful of breaking down.  This is when ideas from pilgrimages meet the road of practice.  In these places and times when we are between known places and times (liminality), relationships take on new and deeper meaning (communitas).

Also, this book opens up some new ways of thinking about my writing – especially this book on literary pilgrimage.  Narrative already surrounds the draft of an exploration into the writings and places of three authors.  But the practices of pilgrimage and spiritual disciplines are not always clear or present in the work.  As I was reading Sensible Shoes, I wondered what about this writing on journey, place, literature, and faith can become more personal, can draw people into a practice, can reflect on Christ?  The pieces are there, but it’s time to open up more.  Now doubt it will require some blood-letting on my part.  I’ve been trying to be so safe.  But, maybe that’s the problem.

Fears, like the fears each of the women in this novel face, and that I again see that I face, keep us away from the life God has in store. Yet, into this fear God speaks his words of comfort to not be afraid and that he is with us.  Garlough Brown’s adventure, along which she invites readers to journey, provides a view into how God speaks into our lives, especially in their brokenness.  Now it’s time to put on the sensible shoes of life, listening to God more closely and walking along his way.

Categories: Readings | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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