As I sat in the Atlanta airport waiting for my flight to board, I watched modern pilgrims fight to get through the crowds to get to their gates only to find another crowd awaiting them. Some walked with determination, others looked lost, a few overwhelmed. All looked ready to be on their way. Many were weighed down with luggage and other bags.
One flight after another was called out by expressionless voices. Flight 6332 to Pittsburgh departing gate G-7… Flight 6420 to Norfolk boarding gate G-12. A woman in a wheelchair rolled herself between the ticket agent and the gate; she was determined to be the first on board. A child spilled goldfish all over the floor and wailed when his mother wouldn’t let him eat them. Others worked on their laptops or talked on cell phones.
The “joys” of post 9/11 travel. I wondered about the people around me. Where had they come from? Where were they going? We all had a story to tell, yet invisible walls seemed to separate us. Rule One of travel etiquette: Don’t talk to other travelers. Oh, it is okay to ask someone to watch your bag for you while you buy a paper or get a coffee. But don’t get involved. Someone might tell you more than you want to know. Or you might get stuck having to talk with that person through the entire flight. Better to remain lost in your thoughts.
All too often, the same rule applies to talking about our spiritual journey, as well. Don’t talk about your faith. Don’t inquire about someone else’s journey. Don’t get involved because people might expect more form you than you’re willing (or feel able) to give. But that’s not the Christian way!
While personal, there is nothing private about our journeys in faith. Although they may take different paths, we seek the same destination: to become conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others. In sharing our stories, we find the journey enriched. We come to understand that our faith is not the end point, but a beginning point.
Ultimately, our journey in faith is a matter of the heart. The closer we find ourselves drawn to God, the closer we find ourselves in community with fellow pilgrims. The Christian journey is not one we make alone. We must learn from each other. We must laugh and cry with each other. We must say our hellos and goodbyes. Only then will we encounter the transforming presence of God.