Faces on Faith: The roads we travel together
It seems like we’re always saying good-bye or welcome home to each other throughout the year on these islands. Whether it’s hello or good-bye for just one month, welcome back for six months or farewell for four, it’s a pretty regular occurrence. Even those who live here full-time get into the cycle when they depart on a vacation for a week or two. Frankly, I found all these good-byes a bit difficult when we first moved here in the summer of 2009, but now I simply look forward to welcoming people back, and marvel at how the time flies! What a community of travelers we are, traveling the roads and waters and skies of this little planet.
John O’Donohue writes about those who travel: “Every time you leave home, another road takes you into a world you were never in. New strangers on other paths await. New places that have never seen you may startle a little at your entry. Old places that know you well will present nothing changed since your last visitHow you unexpectedly attune to the timber in some voice, opening a new conversation you want to take in to where your longing has pressed hard enough inward to create a crystal of insight you could not have known you needed to illuminate your way.”
How many new faces have you met this summer? How many new places stirred you in new and powerful ways? How many old familiar places and faces warmed your heart and caused you to pause and reflect on the value of life and its ultimate brevity? Most importantly, will any of these insights prod you to better welcome the new faces you’ll meet this fall – at work, at school, in our volunteer work on the islands, our church life, and in all our social events. In your “travels” on the islands this coming year, will you encounter someone who presses upon you hard enough to create that crystal of insight you could not have known before and is just what you need to illuminate your way this year?
This last question is probably the most difficult. After all, the root for the word travel is related to the word travail, which means work or trouble. If we really travel, and actually welcome encounters with new places and strangers, it can be hard work. I’m reminded of two St. Michael’s parishioners who are in Vietnam as I write this article, and as exciting a trip as it may be it’s also a journey of huge challenges with culture, languages, new faces and the exhaustion of travel itself. Their travels will take them down amazing highways and byways as they “attune to the timber in new voices” and “open new conversations!”
All of these actual travels offer powerful metaphors for life itself, the life we travel with one another, the friend and the stranger. The life we walk through face-to-face or on Facebook. The life we travel in too great a hurry and often with too focused a destination, and we miss the friend or the new face attempting to travel with us. Again, it can be very hard work to allow your soul to quiet a little, to open your eyes a bit wider, and to see that fellow traveler you didn’t realize you even needed to “illuminate your way” to a more faith-filled and loving life.