This trip is comprised of many layers and so to find one cohesive way of interpreting, recording or analyzing it seemed (and still does seem) unlikely. There was the layer of family adventure, the layer of pilgrimage along a historic path, pilgrimage along a spiritual path and along a genealogical path. Then there was the celebration of 25 years of marriage to Brenda, Robyn’s graduation from High School, experiencing the NC with our good friends and mentors Alick and Jeanne and a case could be made for even a few more layers still. None the less – I feel I should make an effort to engage with the trip in a reflective way. While at Nether Springs (home of the Northumbria Community) and without knowing it contained questions for personal reflection, I purchased a copy of the book “Aidan, Bede and Cuthbert” by David Adam. As I finished chapter one and discovered the questions, it occurred to me to use Adam’s framework for my “analysis”.
As I type this, we are flying over the Hebrides Islands on our way home. Somewhere below me lies Iona, the island home of Aidan, upon whom the first chapter of the book centers. But it does not BEGIN with Aidan. Adam begins his telling of the Northumbrian tale with Corman: a monk who was dispatched to Northumbria before Aidan. Corman returned after only a few months, saying that the Northumbrians were too brutish and thick headed, too entrenched in their violent pagan ways to ever accept the Gospel. While giving this report to his brothers, Aidan listened and felt the Spirit stirring within him. He eventually stood and addressed Corman saying that perhaps more patience and love was needed. After some discussion the consensus of the assembly was that Aidan should go and try then. The result was the establishment of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
At the end of this portion of the tale, Adam asks the reader to, “Look over your life and recall times when you were asked to stand out or speak out the truth.”
He also asks us to reflect upon a very famous quote and very famous prayer:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke
“God give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, the courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
– Reinhold Niebuhr
As we walked St. Oswald’s Way it could be said that I was less a coward than I was 10 years before, and certainly 10 years before that. But even as we took on this adventure the truth is I am more “Corman” than “Aidan”. I tend to quit. I can become sullen and moody when uncomfortable or put-out (never mind actually persecuted or hard-pressed).
What inescapably comes to mind is: I have felt the call to build an intentional community for over 10 years, and every moment of those years has been liminal; in between, interstitial, a desert place. Niebuhr’s prayer goes unanswered.
I cannot discern between God having me slow down and trusting him to bring about whatever is to be, and my own cowardice and apathy. On any given day, I simply can;t tell the difference! I watch people suffer (much of it self-inflicted) as they pursue hollow, worldly goals, and I know that if I could snap my fingers and manifest the community that exists in my imagination, that it would serve as balm to that suffering, but also as a beacon, and example for those around it. it could be a truly transformational force. I believe that deeply. And yet…here I am entering a second decade of desert wandering, unsure if I’m going in circles because I’m ignorant, because I’m self-deluded, because I’m being disciplined, because it is God’s plan, or it is some combination.
Why exactly am I not actively casting vision for this? Why am I not contacting developers and finance people? Why am I not moving faster? Harder?
I’m afraid I am more Corman than Aidan…