Taking Time to Experience the Journey


Thomas Keating, in Intimacy with God, summarizes Evelyn Underhill’s understanding of the spiritual journey:


“… the spiritual journey is like a migration of English sparrows, each weighing about an ounce and a quarter, who twice each year take off into the unknown, committing themselves to the air and flying over the ocean where there are no landmarks to give them any guidance. And yet without any hesitation, every fall thousands of them take off, and in the spring thousands return undergoing the same hazards. This migration, she claims, is a good example of what the spiritual journey is all about. We have no idea of where we are going. There are all kinds of difficulties we cannot foresee. The birds commit themselves to the elements by way of blind trust in their instincts.”


This must be why each fall, even with a busy schedule, I find myself pausing not to go to a football game, but to look for the gathering of migratory birds in the trees in town or the electrical wires that cross the highway. I will take all the time I can to listen to them squawk and wink their yellow or black wings, because I want to experience my own migration toward God in the instinctive flight of these feathered beings. So many bits of protein, so much feathery noise, awaiting the right moment to fling themselves across the crisp sky by the thousands. When they do begin to flow away from me, southward to parts unknown, tears come to my eyes, and I begin to feel the joy of my life–our life together.


One day, life began for each of us, and there is no turning back. Life, such a big place, like the sky. We had better stick together. The years stretch back behind us, and the years lie before us. We have no idea what storms, what trials and tribulations will befall us. In the end, we have nothing but each other and God’s loving call.