For I do hope to see you on my journey and to be sent on by you,
once I have enjoyed your company for a little while.
from Romans 15:22-33
Paul is traveling, traveling, traveling. He’s got communities of followers of Christ spread all over the ancient mediterranean region, and he’s attempting to guide them all as they begin to live and work and serve together. He desperately wants to go back to this community in Rome, but he keeps getting blocked along the way by other needs, other priorities, other concerns, other urgencies. So as he sends this letter to the people in Rome, he tells them, “I really am coming. You really do matter to me. I really want to see you. You are part of my journey.”
Paul is right about this — it is the people along the journey that really make it memorable, and meaningful, and worthwhile.
I have been lucky to travel quite a bit in my life. I’ve lived in Spain and Zimbabwe, visited the UK and Mexico, and seen a great deal of the United States. I have those scratch-off maps to mark where I’ve been, and where I’ve yet to go — states, countries, and national parks. But the map I like best is the one my friend Susan and I are making together. It’s not just a scratch-off, check-off, been-there-done-that. In the place of each state is a photo in the shape of the state of a memory from our visit there. Very few of them are undisturbed landscape scenes. Most of them are photos of people.
Utah is a photo of Susan, laying on her back, pointing up at the mountain in Zion National Park, and allllll the colors you can find in the stone– not just reds and oranges and browns, but brilliant greens and vibrant blues and surreptitious violets and indigos, if you look hard enough. Would I have noticed those if she hadn’t pointed them out to me?
South Carolina is a photo of my friend Kim on the beach. Kim is a pastor, and bi-racial, and she and her husband Jaime have three children in a loving, woke, multi-cultural family. We had just gone to the Slave Mart museum in Charleston, and our hearts were so heavy they were dragging on the asphalt as we walked back to the car. We needed the cleansing sound of the waves, and the cool sensation of the water sneaking over our toes to remember the Creator who loves and cares for all people, and is constantly directing us toward a just existence — where no one is sold like property or abused. She looks into the sunset with a long dock stretching behind her — (was it one where ships and salesmen brought humans in chains to the shore? were any of them relatives of ours?) — and we breathed deep.
Texas is taken up by a huge photo of Galveston, and the work crew from a service project for the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM), restoring homes after a devastating hurricane had basically leveled the island of the coast of Houston. It had been years since the storm had passed through, but UMVIM promises to stay until everything is put to right, no matter how long it takes. We were the last work crew on the island. We put the last of the homes back together again. You could feel the muscles of the work crews who had come through before to work and work and work to get to that moment, stretching and sore beneath your feet. We were standing on the shoulders of giants, and just happened to hammer in the final nail and see the job well done.
I don’t know that I would remember these places so keenly without the people that were there with me: Susan’s keen eye pointing out the glory of creation, Kim’s deep compassion drawing us to learn more about painful history, and the faithful crew from Santa Rosa cracking jokes and making fun out of difficult work.
Who has been on your journey? Who has made it memorable? Who has helped you to see in new ways, feel the heights and depths of human experience, do the work you have been called to do? Where will your journey lead next?
Reflection and photo by Kris Marshall
Bartley Ranch Regional Park