Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I had an interesting conversation about "journey" language. Two clergy colleagues were talking about why they dislike this language. One simply because he abhors buzz words, a trait he inherited from his mother. She ranted one day that everywhere she goes, she is told she on a journey... in her faith, in her job, at Weight Watchers, everywhere. "I have a life, not a journey!"

I have always thought of journey language as a great way to describe the spiritual life because it puts emphasis on the present moment, and the process, rather than upon arriving somewhere. When I say the life of faith is a journey, I mean that I expect it will always be a journey with Christ.

The other person in the conversation interprets journey language in the opposite way- since a journey implies a destination, she hears it as implying that right now is not so important and arriving somewhere else is what life is all about....which is of course not what the life of faith is all about. And I agree.

Interesting how we both largely agree that emphasizing arriving somewhere else devalues the spiritual life... and yet use different language to emphasize this. Language is such tricky and important stuff.

We also realized that part of our difference does stem from our different faith traditions. Her Lutheran tradition emphasizes justifying grace- the grace that brings us to faith in Christ. My Wesleyan/Methodist heritage emphasizes sanctifying grace as much or more than justifying grace.

In fact, the emphasis on sanctifying grace, also known as Christian Perfection, is one of the significant contributions of Methodism to the Christian conversation. This is the doctrine that teaches that it as least possible for God to so sanctify a disciple so that the disciple becomes able to love as Christ loves...to be made perfect in love.

One of the questions asked of me when I was ordained was "do you believe that you are going onto perfection?" and my reply was "by the grace of God, I do so believe."

So even though I am loathe to devalue the present moment, for that is the only moment in which God is present to me right now, I do have a sense of growing and changing along the way. I do earnestly look forward to being more like Christ, and try to match my will to God's through spiritual practices.

I would never want to devalue the present for a "grass is always greener" mentality that is so much a part of the consumerist culture.

Yet for me, journey language accomplishes both the task of communicating that life is a daily experience to cherish and a process of growing and changing along the way.

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