When confronting some would-be disciples, eager to go traipsing after him, Jesus offered the sober warning: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58).
I doubt Jesus’ words met with much success. Probably those wannabe disciples responded as I would: “What could be more cool than going on a camping trip with Jesus?”
But after spending three weeks on the road, roughing it twenty-first century style, I have a new appreciation for the unique stresses of being away from home for an extended period. Even if one’s accommodations are adequate, nice, or even plush, being perpetually on the go taxes the body and wearies the spirit.
Bambi and I left Salisbury, England one week ago yesterday. After completing a course on “Celtic Spirituality” at Sarum College, we had a few days to rest, reflect, and regroup. That was a grace-filled Godsend.
From there, we set off for Canterbury in a rental car, constantly trying to remember to drive on the right side of the road (which in Britain is the wrong side). Meanwhile, dodging vehicles hurtling toward us on country roads not much wider than a cow path, created some anxious moments, a few “expletives deleted,” and much growth in faith!
Canterbury was our destination because there Augustine landed from Rome bringing Christianity to southern Britain. That brand of Christianity was soon on a collision course with the Celtic variety, the two coming to near fisticuffs at the Synod of Whitby in 664 A.D. Suffice to say, Saint Columba and his friends decidedly lost that contest.
Catching up with that bit of Canterbury’s history was rewarding for me, as was our visit to Canterbury’s stately cathedral. However, in some ways even more memorable was discovering at our B&B that it is possible to put a toilet seat in a space eighteen inches wide, even if it is not possible to sit upon so pitiful a throne.
From Canterbury, we launched northward toward Scotland and our ultimate destination, the isle of Iona. Google predicted our daily drives to take about 3 hours but each turned into a 7-8 hour mini-marathon due to my not-ready-for-prime time driving skills, the endless “roundabouts,” and Bambi’s penchant for photography (“STOP!”).
And because we were pursuing the “no place to lay one’s head” experience, each night we spent an hour pouring over a laptop, trying to find our next place to land. “Flying by the seat of your pants” sounds appealing until you discover you’re 3,000 feet high, running out of fuel, and no airport is in sight.
Still, we were richly rewarded for our adventuresome spirit. Along the way, we saw the haunting, mysterious circle of pillars called Stonehenge; old Sarum where the footprint of the Salisbury Cathedral can still be seen since it was moved, stone by stone, to a site two miles distant; soaring sacred spaces that clawed heavenward to the glory of God; crumbling remains of once impregnable stone fortresses, a sober reminder that nothing lasts forever; an enchanting train ride across the lush, green hills and deep blue lochs of Scotland; harbor towns where white, billowing sails looked like splashes of paint on a sky-blue canvas.
Nonetheless, I am getting homesick. I miss my church, my colleagues and friends, my work, my preaching, my fishing hole, and breakfast without black pudding (don’t ask). I want my “place to lay my head” back!
Turns out as usual, Jesus is right. The hardest part about following him (and perhaps what he found hardest in honoring his own call) is leaving your familiar securities and comforts to set out on a new adventure with God. And yes, that means making the endless adjustments, managing the stresses, and grieving the losses every unfolding journey leaves in its wake.
But as fellow pilgrims in the way of Jesus can attest, the sometimes unsettling experience of following him is worth the cost. The uncertainties, the hairpin turns, and the brushes with catastrophe stretch your faith and grow your soul. In his company, every dead end is just another Easter, waiting to happen.
Just don’t expect to know exactly where you’ll land or who, in Jesus’ company, you might find the courage to be. That’s a surprise he is keeping hidden for now in his strong and able hands (Colossians 3:3).
Bob Setzer, Jr.
P. S. Yesterday, we arrived in Iona, an island off the western coast of Scotland. It was here that Saint Columba brought Christianity to the Scots and founded a monastic movement. In many ways, this the heart of our journey. We are in a restful B&B by the sea where we will spend the next week basking in the healing powers of this “thin space” where heaven and earth draw near.
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