Life is a journey. I’ve said that before and probably will say it many more times. It is how I like to view life. A journey has a beginning and a destination —note, not an end but a destination. An end has a finality about it, a destination is the beginning of a new adventure, the beginning of a new journey.
Actually, to describe more accurately how I look at life would be to say it is an over-arching journey. One big journey that encompasses many smaller journeys —childhood is a journey, parenthood is a journey, each phase of ministry is a journey, each career is a journey, retirement is a journey. . .
Even within each of my examples are multiple journeys. Journeys within journeys!
Today is Ascension Sunday. As I read the various lectionary readings I thought how in the church’s calendar, the time between Easter and ascension typifies a journey. Ascension is celebrated forty days after Easter. I’m not sure that this is a literal number, as forty is a typical Biblical number for significant events —forty days in the wilderness, forty days of lent.
Regardless, I want to look briefly at the forty-day journey that began at Easter and reached its destination with ascension. Journeys are not usually straight roads, but full of highs and lows, twists and turns. I want to think about this journey from the viewpoint of those early followers of Jesus. Those people who had been on a journey accompanying Jesus for a few short years. They had left families and careers to do so, they had seen miracles, they had been taught and trained, they’d been exalted and ridiculed. What a journey!
Yet, the destination had not been what they expected. The destination had been death and crucifixion. So, their next journey which was to last only forty short days started on an incredible low. I cannot imagine the depths of despair they must have reached as their hopes and expectations of a Messiah ended on a cross.
Sometimes that happens in life, one embarks on a journey full of excitement and expectations only to reach an unexpected destination. It can be quite devastating, but often, like the mythological phoenix, something rises from the ashes —a new journey begins with all the hope and expectation rekindled. I have always loved the way C. S. Lewis expresses in in The Last Battle —"Their hearts leaped and a wild hope arose within them” (228)
For those early followers, Easter Sunday began that new journey. Hope and expectation were rekindled. The scriptures only give a glimpse of those forty days —some walks together, some conversations and a shared meal. What an adventure those forty days must have been!
But like all journeys it reached a destination, yet another unexpected turn. The risen Christ ascended. This time maybe it was not so devastating. They had been given hope and promises for the future. So, in great anticipation those followers left the place of ascension and returned to where they were staying. There they would wait for empowerment, full of expectation the next journey was soon to begin.
This, too, happens in life. I have also experienced it. Sometimes the destination is planned and reached. It is time for the next adventure to begin. But, as in the experience of those present at the ascension, the destination can be unplanned but not devastating, unexpected but not traumatic merely different than assumed. It is time to wait for the next journey to be embarked upon.
Life is a journey — enjoy the adventure!
(Photo: Holocaust Memorial, Cornell Botanical Gardens)