Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

Summertime Spiritual Journey

For many of us the summer doldrums have set in. Our days start and end with a yawn. In between yawns, we sweat the days away. We hide from the sun—and too often the Son as well. While we subscribe to the truth that Christ makes all things (even us) new, we exercise our routineness, not our uniqueness.

Why is it so easy to let our spiritual life become so boring? Maybe because normal conversation has been kidnapped by COVID-19 this year—it is at the center of most conversations of late.

G. K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936, English writer, philosopher, lay theologian), once told of a British yachtsman who set out from England to sail across the sea and discover a new world. However, through some unknown navigational error, he sailed in a circle until he landed, ‘armed to the teeth to plant the British flag…back on British soil.” Chesterton says, “that though the man would admit looking the fool, he would actually have committed an honest and enviable mistake that resulted in what he would consider the best of all situations.”

Hereabouts, we are for the most part a boating society, with a few golfers thrown in. Often one can be a boater and a golfer! How many of us have set a course, even put the boat on autopilot, just to save work. I do wonder why we’d let electronic instruments dictate our journey? Grab the wheel; plot the course, read the navigational markers, scan the horizon… Invest in life’s journey.

“What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the human security of coming ‘home again’?” asked Chesterton. He then went on to say that this is the struggle of philosophy or theology, or I would add, the spiritual life in general. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it?

 This “romantic adventure,” as Chesterton calls it, is at the heart of the western ideal of life. We want a “practical romance; the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need to view the world [so] as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome.”

 “Strangeness and security, wonder and welcome; going abroad and being at home… This double-need,” says Chesterton, “is exactly what a Christian spiritual journey provides. We travel far and wide through many ‘dangers, toils and snares,’ only to arrive back at our Maker’s side, our spiritual home. We seek to discover a new unspoiled pool in a jungle, only to find that it is the Garden of Eden we left so long ago.”

Let’s think on that: “Christianity as a ‘practical romance,’ a way of looking at spiritual seeking, ‘emergent’ movements of Christian faith, and the kind of homecoming that the church needs to provide each person who shows up ‘armed to the teeth and talking by signs.”

Here’s a question for us: “How many narcissists does it take to screw in a light bulb? Answer: Just one. He holds the bulb while the world revolves around him.” All too true; all too true; all too like me, all too often.

We have to change our rotation, find a new center. We need to begin anew to circle around Christ. That sure would put a different spin on life.

Someone once mused: “One way to define the spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up with yourself that you go on to something better, which is following Jesus.”

America’s pioneers, while invading a native land, found a circle of wagons a protective force. Maybe we should replicate that. Let’s circle our wagons and draw towards our center. Let’s let Christ be the center of our universe.

Christ actually can change our destination if we reinvest ourselves in a spiritual journey that does not revolve around us. Faith can be more exciting. Life can be more interesting.

Without Christ, the circle of life becomes a wilderness journey.

We don’t need anything new to stimulate us, to re-excite us. Jesus waits. He understands our mundaneness, our compliancy. God’s only son was sent into this world that we might find a new destination. There’s nothing wrong with going in circles if we reawaken that which we all know is true.

God made our world. He formed us from nothing and located us in a garden. When human error, pride and prejudice evicted us from the garden, God never stopped loving us. He taught us, though, that some things would have to remain outside our circle.

Like the yachtsman mentioned earlier, if we find the courage to enthusiastically embark without questioning the path, God just might bring us right back home again. There’s a whole new church to which we already belong. We only have to open our hearts to discover it. I find that most exciting!

God’s voice can: shake mountains, light the heavens, cause rivers to run backwards and send seas to cover dry land. Yet the Bible tells us that the most romantic, most exciting journey of all comes when we “hear his still small voice,” and respond.

Come on back. We’ve been missing you at church, even if this season many worship out of doors. Certainly that’s the case in Irvington, where we worshipped outdoors on our same spot as far back as 1891.