Readers may recall the last two weeks I have witnessed how others can inspire our spiritual journey. I now turn to you… and invite you to reflect inwardly and seek God’s direction to answer the question: “What Journey Am I On?” Before dismissing this workout, I offer as a starting point two resources. The first is a short story to justify the value of this question. It is followed by life-giving insights from a newly proclaimed saint in the Orthodox Church. Perhaps you will share these resources with your family and friends at your Sunday Lunch.
This story focuses on a sailing boat carrying passengers and cargo near a New England coastal town. As it was passing a nearby boat, it was challenged to a race. Feeling optimistic, the first boat’s captain accepted and the race was on. The second boat easily took the lead and the captain of the first boat got an idea. He ordered that some of the cargo he was carrying be thrown into the sea. In no time, his boat increased its speed. This worked so well that he tried it again and again. At last, with whistles blowing and flags waving, the first sailing boat arrived in the port city, ahead of its rival. But, alas, when the travelers came for their belongings, they learned they had been tossed to win the race.
Is this not a parable of our human dilemma? We often are in a race to see who comes in first. In the process, we forget what our life’s journey is all about. As God’s children, our mission is to deliver His Word and His Saving Grace as our payload. Our mission is to navigate through life in service to our true Master. Everything in life should come in second to that.
St. Paisios of Mt. Athos is a contemporary saint renowned for his prayers and spiritual guidance. He died in 1994 and was declared a saint in the Orthodox Church in 2015. His teachings have influenced many. To help us answer the question, “What Journey Am I On?”, I offer the following teaching from Elder Paisios.1
Some people tell me that they are scandalized because they see many things wrong in the Church. I tell them that if you ask a fly, “Are there any flowers in this area?” it will say, “I don’t know about flowers, but over there in that heap of rubbish you can find all the filth you want.” And it will go on to list all the unclean things it has been to.
Now, if you ask a honeybee, “Have you seen any unclean things in this area?” it will reply, “Unclean things? No, I have not seen any; the place here is full of the most fragrant flowers.” And it will go on to name all the flowers of the garden or the meadow.
You see, the fly only knows where the unclean things are, while the honeybee knows where the beautiful iris or hyacinth is.
As I have come to understand, some people resemble the honeybee and some resemble the fly. Those who resemble the fly seek to find evil in every circumstance and are preoccupied with it; they see no good anywhere. But those who resemble the honeybee only see the good in everything they see. The stupid person thinks stupidly and takes everything in the wrong way, whereas the person who has good thoughts, no matter what he sees, no matter what you tell him, maintains a positive and good thought.
I liken each of our journeys as depicted in the following picture I took of an artist painting a seascape in coastal Maine. As we consider the answer to the question, “What Journey Am I On?”, are we on our guard, like this artist, to find the true essence and beauty of life that God has given to us? Or, do we give in to non-essential priorities that become our excuses for missing the central experience of our life in Christ? To prepare for Sunday’s Lunch, let us take a step backwards and with God’s help, view where we are and where we need to go.
In so doing, we can make needed adjustments in our life’s journey. God is calling us to follow Him each day. He has given us the freedom to chart our course whichever way we choose. No matter what unexpected forces we will encounter, He assures us He will guide us safely to His port.
In the past, large ocean-going ships had chart rooms where maps, drawings, and charts were kept. They stored the shore lines, ocean depths, islands, reefs, and rocks of the great waters of the world. Here, naval officers could determine their positions and how best to reach their port. When we seek to bring ourselves into line with God’s will for us, it is like checking the charts, as it were, for His guidance of our precious lives. Daily, we sail in new waters, often different from the day before. What do we know of what others have discovered and what nearly-hidden reef awaits us that we need to be aware and steer by?
With God and His Body, the Church, we have the best and most complete chart room to guide us. In seeking His will in all things, our voyage is always smoothest, safest, and most pleasant. Then, we know with certainty “what journey we are on!”
1 St. Paisios of Mt. Athos, “Good and Evil Thoughts,”
Spiritual Counsels III: Spiritual Struggle
- Photos by Fr. George Tsahakis