December 14, 2017

The Path Is Made by Walking

Trees of the Tees, Photo by Freddie Phillips

Traveller, your footprints
Are the path and nothing more;
Traveller, there is no path,
The path is made by walking.

By walking the path is made
And when you look back
You’ll see a road
Never to be trodden again.

• Antonio Machado

“We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”

• Dallas Willard

• • •

When Jesus called Simon and Andrew, he said, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:16, NASB).

  • The call was to pursue a course of ongoing action.
  • The promise was that they would become something they were not before.
  • The outcome would be that, through them, other human beings would likewise come and follow Jesus.

He did not bid them follow merely to train them for doing a task (“fishers of men”). He bid them follow so that they might become new (“I will make you become”).

Acting leads to becoming which leads to influencing.

He did not call the disciples to come into a classroom.

He did not give them a book to read.

He did not hand out a class syllabus.

He did not lay out for them a course or program of study.

They were not required to memorize a catechism.

There were no papers to write, projects to complete, tests to take.

One word of instruction was spoken: Follow me.

St. Francis’s first companion was Bernard of Assisi. When he sought Francis’s advice about what to do to become a disciple, Francis quoted three simple instructions Jesus gave in the Gospels: “If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and come, follow me;” “Take nothing with you for your journey: neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money;” and, “If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

Then St Francis said to Bernard: “This is the advice that the Lord has given us; go and do as thou hast heard; and blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ who has pointed out to thee the way of his angelic life.”

Francis did not set before Bernard a statement of doctrine or belief to which he should assent, but said, in essence, “Follow Jesus.” Go and do as thou hast heard.

How different so many of us are in the contemporary church, as described by Dallas Willard: “We intend what is right, but we avoid the life that would make it reality.”

Many of us avoid this way, or we want to quit along the way because we’re afraid; we know it involves effort and suffering and laying down our lives for the benefit of others. But “doing what we have heard” is and remains essential for our becoming.

Richard Rohr writes some wise words about this:

I believe that, in the end, there are really only two “cauldrons of transformation”: great love and great suffering. And they are indeed cauldrons, big stew pots of warming, boiling, mixing, and flavoring! Our lives of contemplation are a gradual, chosen, and eventual free fall into both of these cauldrons. There is no softer or more honest way to say it. Love and suffering are indeed the ordinary paths of transformation, and contemplative prayer is the best way to sustain the fruits of great love and great suffering over the long haul and into deep time. Otherwise you invariably narrow down again into business as usual.

The journey of faith is never business as usual, even during business as usual. As we walk the path, a path is being made.

And still, the word keeps coming: Follow me.

• • •

Photo by Freddie Phillips at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. Susan Dumbrell says:

    The path we walk must be in the steps of our Master, hopefully being held and led forward by His might hands.
    My husband has dementia, I have one lung, a heart defect and arthritic knees.
    However each day is offered to Jesus Christ for his direction and support.
    He eases me over rocky ground. The path ahead flows out like a bright ribbon.
    There is no other way but as lead by His hands.
    We travel the road together, it is not just following, as I say, there is no other way.
    Thanks be to God.

    • Robert F says:

      For many of us striving to patiently and lovingly deal with our difficult life circumstances is walking the way. God speed us on our paths.

    • Robert F says:

      There’s no other way,
      just one that follows each step
      alongside the light.

      • No other path
        no other way
        no day but today.

        -Jonathan Larson

        (I apologize, your words made my inner Renthead come out.)

      • Susan Dumbrell says:

        Robert F
        Great Haiku (or tercet). Love your work.
        Also you interpretation of the subject..
        I have noticed them in past comments.
        Keep up the good compositions.
        They say so much so succinctly.

    • Susan, in case you didn’t notice, there is an older couple in the picture above walking hand in hand about to disappear beyond the bend. I didn’t notice at first and had to use a magnifying glass to figure out what it was. If you click on the photo it will enlarge so you can see better. Thought it might be meaningful to your situation. Blessed be.

      • Susan Dumbrell says:

        Thank you Robert and Charles. Your comments mean a lot.

        I hadn’t noticed the couple walking but that is how I now lead my husband, like a little child.
        Things the mind remembers, he can say the Lord’s Prayer perfectly. Otherwise, very little language.

        As it is evening where I live I am reminded of the old prayer:-

        Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past;
        be our companion on the way. kindle our hearts and awaken hope………….

  2. Wonderful stuff, Mike. I needed that today.

  3. Ronald Avra says:

    Uncluttered and to the point.

  4. Rick Ro. says:

    –> “The journey of faith is never business as usual, even during business as usual. As we walk the path, a path is being made. And still, the word keeps coming: Follow me.”

    Love this.

    I had an odd thought today. If we’re rooted to the vine and to stay rooted to the vine, yet the vine is on the move and tells us, “Follow me,” are we potted plants?

  5. “If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and come, follow me;” “Take nothing with you for your journey: neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money;” and, “If any one will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Then St Francis said to Bernard: “This is the advice that the Lord has given us; go and do as thou hast heard; and blessed be the Lord Jesus Christ who has pointed out to thee the way of his angelic life.”

    “Many of us avoid this way, or we want to quit along the way because we’re afraid; we know it involves effort and suffering and laying down our lives for the benefit of others. But “doing what we have heard” is and remains essential for our becoming.”

    Because we are afraid, very afraid. Mia culpa. I am a pretty nice guy, but I confess that “becoming” like the person Christ is proves to be a terrifying venture in a culture that offers “so much”. I am too fond of that culture and I can’t seem to find the will to break free . . .

  6. Burro [Mule] says:

    Otherwise you invariably narrow down again into business as usual.

    Fortunately, there is grace in the midst of the usual business.

  7. Chill, Jesus called his disciples to a hard school because it was needed, but not everyone was called to this school. Jesus taught and ministered to huge crowds of people, sometimes in the thousands, and he did not call them to follow him on the trail or to become perfect, he sent them home, hopefully changed for the better. If Francis of Assisi thought it helped him grow spiritually to go barefoot in the snow, well and good, but that does not mean you are called to go barefoot in the snow. If Richard Rohr finds suffering necessary for his spiritual growth, well and good, but in my view that does not mean that we should seek to suffer. Certainly we need to do our best to cope with suffering well if it comes our way, but there is a line that many in the church have crossed, kneeling on broken glass or whipping themselves or some such that I just plain find sick. Jesus didn’t do that.

    At the same time Jesus calls us all to sacrifice our selves for others, what he called picking up the cross, and this can be scary to our ego. Normal people don’t enjoy suffering, and yet sometimes helping others hurts as can shedding harmful habits. There’s a balance in there somewhere. The main point is to choose to leave the kingdom of darkness where service to self is the main operating principle, and to give our allegiance to the kingdom of light, where service to other is the main operating principle. This isn’t easy and many never make this basic shift even amongst self-professing Christians.

    There is a grocery chain near me owned and run by practical Germans. The grocery carts are chained together and to get a cart you put a quarter in a slot that releases the chain. When you’re done you return the cart to the rack and chain it up and you get your quarter back. Sometimes people leave a cart unchained by the entrance with the quarter still in it for someone else. That person can chain the cart up when they’re done and put the quarter in their pocket, or they can leave it unchained for someone else. I say all this to show that if you are trying to break free in service to other, you can start small and work your way up. God will meet you wherever you are, and if you ask for help you will get it, not always in ways you would come up with if you were running the show. The advantage for a Christian is that we have available the mind of Jesus Messiah and we have the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance and comfort. The starting point is stepping over the line into service to other as a commitment, and then watching what happens like the movie of your life.

  8. Where did the Willard quote come from?