Last week, we completed part 1 of our spiritual journey through art—taking survey of the landscape of our spiritual journeys. I hope the exercise was meaningful to you. In case you missed them, here are links to the intro and part 1.
Now that we have recognized and documented the current landscape and season of our individual spiritual journeys, let’s take a look at the big picture. Where did your spiritual journey begin? Where have you been since then in your quest? Where do you want to go? How do you get there? What are the obstacles in the way? What else lies along the path in this journey?
Consider these biblical stories of travel:
The book of Exodus tells the story of the Israelites wandering through the wilderness for forty years—from slavery to the land of milk and honey.
In Genesis 6-8, Noah and his family travel through torrential rains and heaving waters for forty days and forty nights before the ark came to rest.
Genesis 12-25 tells of Abraham’s journey through family drama, famine, doubt, and faith to find “the land I will show you” as God put it.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul travels extensively as a missionary, enduring persecution and imprisonment.
I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within. ~Lillian Smith
Travel isn’t always a physical act. Here are few familiar biblical metaphors that come to mind:
“Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.” (Proverbs 4:14-15)
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13)
“Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.” (Psalm 25:8-10)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
“‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:17, 18)
1. Ponder the path of your spiritual journey on a map. If it’s helpful, jot down brief answers to the following questions before you start drawing.
Are you journeying along a well-traveled highway or a lonely mountain road?
What is the pattern of your spiritual road? Straightforward from point A to point B? Winding and circuitous?
At what pace do you travel? Is arriving most important to you? Or do you prefer to meander along the scenic route? Have you gone in circles?
Are you following a set of directions or are you seeing where the journey will take you?
What landmarks mark your spiritual path? Baptism? Life landmarks like marriage, divorce, deaths, births?
What’s your destination? Heaven? Perfection? Spiritual peace? Grace?
Have there been times when the path was unclear to you, but in hindsight, you see clearly that a divine hand was leading you? 2. Consider common elements used in map-making and how they’re relevant to the map of your spiritual journey.
Are there boundaries—religious, cultural, geographic, or otherwise—on your map? Have you crossed any of these boundaries? Who created these boundaries?
What physical features appear on the map of your spiritual journey? Railroads? Foot trails? Bodies of water? Caves? Glaciers? What do these features represent? Does a lake represent danger? Does a river present a source of knowledge? To you, is a cave a mine of hidden wealth or a treacherous risk? Is there an area marked “Danger! Do not enter!”?
Where is your spiritual home on your map? Is it a physical place? A doctrine? The Adventist church? Have you found it yet, or are you still looking?
3. Create a map that represents your spiritual journey.
Your map can be as literal or symbolic as you choose. It can be detailed like a topographer’s map or as simple as a child’s drawing. Consider where you’ve come from, where you are now, and where you’re headed in this map.
Here’s my map. (I’m drawing left-handed again, and it’s really hard to write small! Really, I promise my handwriting is usually much more legible.)
My map is vertical, because I envision life as a vertical growth pattern—at least ideally, that’s the way it should be. It’s fairly chronological. I was born SDA and fairly sheltered, which is symbolized by the stone walls at the bottom of the map. My baptism, depicted as a bridge over a river in Japan, is a transition of sorts into an individual spiritual life. But there is a sign early on that warns, “Not well-traveled!” And indeed, my individual spiritual journey thus far has not been on the main highway of Adventism. Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev introduced me to the complexity and struggle of a creative spiritual life. My spiritual path in college bypassed the prescribed “religious” circle, but it was moving straight forward. During my year in France, I found my own faith. Not too long ago, there were the white water rapids of a long illness and church turmoil, but a life raft of love and grace carried me across. And then, the revelation: the “gondola of grace!” Imagine: it’s been here all along. I wish I had known. I wish more people knew!
The pattern I see in my map (though probably not clear from my scribbled drawing) is that many of the milestones in my spiritual journey have been moments of complication—of an integration of my spiritual beliefs into the expansive and complicated world in which we live. I believe the trend in my spiritual journey is away from a separation of the secular and the spiritual and toward a holistic life. On another level, I’ve been steadily moving away from boundaries and theories to something similar to the Dalai Lama’s statement, “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
What does your map say about you? Do you notice any patterns in your spiritual life? This exercise is not just about seeing the big picture of our spiritual journeys. It’s also about forging new paths toward a thriving spiritual maturity. We can’t change where we’ve been on our spiritual journeys. That’s part of the terrain we’ve covered, part of our history. But what about the journey to come? Each day, we’re charting the map of our individual spiritual journeys through the choices we make—but not alone. The Prophet Isaiah wrote, “The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (Isaiah 58:11) “For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death,” David reminds us (Psalm 48:14).
Are you participating in this art journey? If so, please leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to hear if it was a meaningful experience for you and what you may have learned from the activity.
As always, if you’re brave enough to share your creations with the world, scan them in and email them to me (signed or anonymously) at email@example.com along with a brief description of your artwork. I’ll see about putting them up on the blog.
Next week’s activity is “Moving Forward: Packing for the Journey.”
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4190