As we have been drawing closer to the departure date for our leave, it has becoming increasingly apparent how deeply we are embedded into a particular way of life. When giving consideration to and planning for such an extended time away from home, work, school and social connections, the execution seems somewhat akin to disentangling a ball of string which a cat has used for recreation. The process of withdrawing takes months of planning and preparation, not only for the trip details, but for management of ongoing issues at home.
This is, in one respect, a source of deep joy, for it represents connectedness – our relationships with different people and places. They are a source of life’s richness. To contemplate time without these people in our lives is to recognise their valuable contribution.
On the other hand, it raises deep questions.
If it takes so much time and effort to dislodge ourselves from our daily life patterns, what does it mean for any sense of freedom and spontaneity – our ability to follow the Spirit’s lead? To what extent have we been caught up in the flow of a life over which we have little control, and in which our decision-making capacities are greatly diminished? This is not to say that these do not bring us joy and satisfaction, but to ponder if there has been a line crossed where we are merely products of a system, rather than shaped by a higher calling.
When Jesus spoke of discipleship, he challenged these notions of embeddedness. To the scribe he indicated that the Son of Man had no place to rest his head. Another disciple was challenged to leave responsibilities for family burial to others. For Jesus, our relationship to the kingdom was fundamentally different to the links which embed us in daily life. How does this work out in our lives today?
The life of the father of faith – Abraham – could be expressed in two symbols: the tent and the altar. Everywhere he went, he set these two up. The tent was characteristic of his ability to follow God wherever he would lead, and the altar a strong reminder of the priority of God in his life. Israel in the wilderness dwelt in tents and followed the cloud. Such flexibility and freedom to follow the Spirit were characteristic of the great people of faith.
It is as we endeavour to disconnect ourselves for this time that we give thanks for the people who are an important part of our life, and ponder afresh what the call to discipleship commands of us.
A question which must live and grow with us.
June 11, 2006