The Journey – By Sheila Jacobs
Recently, I was asked to go on a walk with a friend. Now, this wasn’t just an ‘ordinary’ walk. This was a proper walk. An organised one. And it was advertised as ‘five and a half miles’. That seemed like a journey!
Having some free time, I agreed to go – but then I started to think. I regularly walk a couple of miles or so into the countryside near my home. But five and a half miles! Would I make it? Or would I collapse halfway round?
When my friend turned up, I ventured: ‘Er – do you still want to go, then?’ She did.
‘You’re not taking your handbag?’ she asked. ‘You don’t want any extra baggage on a long walk.’
So, taking a few essentials in my pocket (comb, keys, cash, phone – ‘A comb? Really?’ said my friend), left my bag in the car.
When we got to the starting point, it turned out the walk wasn’t five and a half miles at all. It was just over four. Well – that was all right, then…
Most of the other walkers were experienced – i.e., they had the right kit. Nordic walking poles, backpacks, the lot. There I was in my trainers and a short leather jacket. I did not look the part. The guide seemed a pleasant sort of chap. All we had to do was follow him, I figured, and we’d be all right…
As we ascended a steep hill (OK, it wasn’t that steep), a few spots of water on my face had me squeaking, ‘It’s raining!’ as most of the others (rather smugly, I thought) put their hoods up. Fortunately, the guide had a spare cagoule neatly wrapped up in a little packet. I nearly snatched it out of his hand. After that, I asked a complete stranger, rather pathetically, ‘Are we nearly there yet?’
Still, the views were magnificent over the Suffolk countryside. We could see the little country town of Clare and all the fields, half-harvested, half-ploughed. The sun came out. The cagoule came off. I started to enjoy myself.
The guide and the seasoned walkers were up ahead (I started in the front; by the time we finished, I was at the back) but the guide thoughtfully kept stopping for the rest of us to catch up. We’d stand for a while, drinking water and eating sesame seed snacks. I had a short conversation with one of the other walkers. One walked part-way with me, before I resumed an ongoing conversation with my friend, Helen.
Then the wind came. The view wasn’t so brilliant, and it felt as if we were walking into a gale. That wasn’t fun at all. If only there was a seat somewhere! Or an ice cream van! I began to wish I’d never bothered coming.
Then the wind stopped, quite suddenly. We were coming back into the town. As we headed back to the starting point, the official end of the walk, people began to leave the group. Eventually, only five of us (including the guide) were left. To be honest, I was pretty keen to clear off into the nearest café for a sit-down and a sandwich. But the guide and his friend offered to walk with Helen and me right to the end: ‘How kind and encouraging,’ I thought. And as we reached our destination, I really felt I’d achieved something – something I didn’t think I could do.
In it together
Now, what has all of this got to do with being open to God and seeking Him for His plans for our life? Well, when I was praying about going, I had asked Him to ‘take this cup away from me’ (!) but He hadn’t and I did feel He was saying, ‘Go. You can do more than you think.’ So I knew He’d be speaking to me about something. I wasn’t disappointed.
I saw so clearly that the Christian life is a journey. We’re all on it together. We may not know each other, we may not be travelling at the same pace. We come from different places. Sometimes we’re up ahead, and sometimes we’re at the back. Some people will walk with us for a short time, and some for longer. But as believers, we are all heading in the same direction.
The Guide knows where He’s going, and as long as we keep our eyes on Him we can’t get lost. As the guide on my walk provided waterproofs for me, so Jesus will provide for us on our journey with Him. He knows what’s coming and He knows what we need. He waits for us when we lag behind. He understands when we get impatient or scared. He encourages us to keep going. He says, ‘Rest awhile’ when we need it.
When the going gets tough
Sometimes, as Christians, when the going gets tough – and it will – we may wonder why we bothered starting out on the journey at all. Turning back looks like a good option, especially when we think, ‘I can’t make it’, when an unexpected storm threatens to overwhelm us. But at that time, we will find that God is ever-present, and able to equip us for the rest of the journey. And we never know if round the next corner, round the next bend on the rocky trail will be the most spectacular and breath-taking view.
In the New Testament, we find that many disciples turned away from following Jesus when He said some radical things (see John 6:66). Yes, some of His teaching is tough. But He still says, ‘Follow Me.’ We’re disciples. Let’s trust Him that He doesn’t just know the way, He is the way (John 14:6).
Keeping on till the end
Interestingly, on my walk and on the journey, the most tempting place to stop was near the end of the walk. There seemed so much temptation in the last quarter-mile, in the shape of pubs and cafés… but the encouragement to keep on going and to finish well kept us strong.
Aching feet and weary joints, a faith that seems to be running on little more than past promises, can soon be changed into the joy of knowing you have finished the course and can enter into your reward – in my case, a brie and rocket sandwich, chips and coffee – but a far greater reward awaits us in our journey with Christ.
Don’t give up. You can do more than you think.
Following Jesus on the journey of faith doesn’t make for an easy life, but it is rewarding. Just as I heard from Him on that walk, any one of us can hear from Him at any time, if we are open to hear Him speak. Listening to the Spirit is so important; listening for ourselves, and for the person in front of us.
We might not always understand why He leads us in certain paths – ‘Why am I still single, Lord?’ –but still He says, ‘Follow Me.’ What does ‘Follow Me’ look like for you, at this moment? Perhaps it’s getting your thought-life in order. Thoughts come from three places, in my view: from the Spirit of God, the enemy, or from ourselves. If they are from any place other than Jesus– thoughts that really don’t line up with God’s Word – then why entertain them? We need to learn to surrender ourselves to His will. Maybe there’s someone we need to forgive; something we need to put right, and we know we won’t feel free till we do. Whatever it is – we don’t need extra baggage to weigh us down on the journey. We can’t walk forward while we are continually looking back.
Reading the Bible, hearing from God – that’s what makes the journey with Jesus so exciting. Getting to know our Guide and travelling companion… being open to Him and what He is saying to us. And God provides us with Christian ‘family’ who are all travelling the same way. So whether we walk without a husband or wife for some or all of the journey, we’re heading for a glorious destination with the One who loves us best.
Christian writer Sheila Jacobs is an award-winning author, editor and speaker. She is single, and is currently serving as a deacon in her church. She loves the countryside and walking (and is thinking about buying her own cagoule and some hiking boots).