It didn’t work.
Henri set out to write a book that would inspire a true desire in his friend, Fred, to pursue the spiritual life, but Fred kindly explained that he had failed to do so. While he wrote beautifully about the spiritual life, he was unable to articulate the reality of that life and the space it occupies in our secular lives. As Henri put it:
“My attempt had been to be a ‘witness of God’s love’ to a secular world, but I had sounded like someone who is so excited about the art of sailing that he forgets that his listeners have never seen lakes or the sea, not to mention sailboats!”
Despite their long friendship, there remained a gap between their spiritual and secular lives that Henri was unable to cross. He discovered that the issue was no longer about communicating the mystery of God in a secular language, but rather communicating that there is a mystery of God at all; something transcendent to our daily lives that we can call “sacred”. He writes:
“Fred was quite willing to say that, with the disappearance of the sacred from our world, the human imagination had been impoverished and that many people live with a sense of loss, even emptiness. But where and how can we discover the sacred and give it the central place in our lives?”
This was the work I found myself doing in prison for five years. Many different paths converged in that chapel, but we were all seeking the sacred. I saw conversions to Christianity, but I also saw conversions from Christianity. I witnessed men discovering a higher purpose and sense of community in the Sweat Lodge as well as around an Ásatrú fire. I celebrated with men who found hope by returning to their childhood faith, and I encouraged others who were meeting a God of their own understanding for the first time.
The ones who “got it,” though, the ones who learned to carry their hope back onto the unit and out beyond the razor wire, were the ones who discovered the sacred in our shared humanity.
This is not to declare that all ideas of truth are true, or that all paths are the same, but that we are all the same in our search for truth. As Brennan Manning writes in his book, The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, we are all “card-carrying members of the messy human community.”
Henri mused that, “Maybe the distinction between secular and sacred can be bridged when they have both been identified as aspects of every person’s experience of being human.”
This was my experience when I set out to walk with God on El Camino de Santiago and met Him most in the faces of my fellow pilgrims. We shared community meals together, traded tips in different languages on how to care for wounded feet, and laughed together when the clothes we hung up to dry were washed again in the rain. Like inmates in the chapel, we came to the Camino for different reasons, but we discovered the sacred on that path together.
This is the community I would like to create; a community of fellow pilgrims On Journey Together, seeking the sacred in our secular lives.
I have plenty of ideas about how we can engage in such a journey together, ideas that involve pilgrimage and rites of passage and…food, but most importantly, community. What I have to offer is only what I have been able to discover for myself, the gift of our Belovedness. And I offer it humbly, knowing that being Beloved may mean something very different to you than it does to me. I resonate deeply with what Henri writes:
“I feel within myself a very deep rooted resistance to proving anything to anybody. I don’t want to say: ‘I will show you that you need God to live a full life.’ I can only say: ‘For me, God is the one who calls me the Beloved, and I have a desire to express to others how I try to become more fully who I already am.’ But beyond that I feel very poor and powerless.”
Jedidiah’s Journey began as my own exploration of what it means to be the Beloved of Jehovah. What I have discovered is that to be Jedidiah is to be human, and that true friendship, the heart of community, is to share our Belovedness with one another.
The next step for me will be taking a job in wilderness therapy with Rites of Passage Northwest, where I will work with teens and young adults in the wilderness setting of the Olympic National Park. I can’t think of a better place for soul work than the wilderness! I’ll share some of my adventures there on my blog, Clearwater Trekker, and some of my insights here on Jedidiah’s Journey.
For me, the physical journey has always been a metaphor for the spiritual journey. The outer journey a manifestation of the inner journey. My hope is to bring these two passions together into one community of “fellow-travelers searching for life, light and truth,” as Henri would say.
I hope you’ll come along.
You can connect with us by commenting, messaging, or signing up for the newsletter below. You can also join us on Facebook at On Journey Together. We’d love to have you at the table!
Buen Camino, my friends.
To the end, to the truth.