Beginning our Journey
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”Jeremiah 29:11
During this second week of Lent we begin our journey. It is time to begin to move out of captivity and exile into freedom. The hopeful expectation we have experienced this past week becomes the reality of the journey in the following three psalms. We have looked toward the New Jerusalem; now we begin to take steps to come home. Our eyes must be fixed on the goal, the object of our desire. We must begin to develop a vertical view of life. Jesus said that if we want all of the good things in our lives we must first seek Him, for it is in Him that “all these thing will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
But there are many who are reluctant to step out. For some there is fear. It could be fear of the unknown, fear of losing friends in this world, of losing themselves, or simply fear of change. For some, they have become comfortable in this secular world and their reluctance is in reality a rejection of the Lord’s plan for their lives. This journey makes too many demands on the pilgrim, they say, religion should make me comfortable, not miserable! But the Lord says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). In truth, we do not know what we need. We have never walked this path before. The quote from Jeremiah above should be a comfort for the reluctant. And this hope is reiterated by St. Paul: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
And it is not simply that the Lord will be with us. Scripture tells us that He is to be our dwelling place. He is the goal. Our journey is to grow into a fuller life in Him. As we begin, we take a step up and move further in. In the The Last Battle, the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, in chapter 16, Reepicheep, the warrior mouse, greets the travelers as they come into the New Narnia, saying, “Welcome, in the Lion’s name. Come further up and further in.” And Lucy, standing with Mr. Tumnus, the Faun, observes, “The garden is like the Stable it is far bigger inside than outside.” The Faun answered, “The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets.” But Lewis says that “It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then he cried: ‘I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this…Come further up, come further in!”
God is faithful. If we earnestly seek Him, He will always give us more, and it will always be better than we could have imagined. We need only wait upon Him. He will protect and provide for our every need. St. Peter said that “according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). And the Psalmist said, “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:9-11). There is simply no reason to not take this journey. The Lord is with us, and we are on this journey together. So, let us step out and come further up and further in.