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Pete Enns & The Bible for Normal People

my favorite metaphor for all this following Jesus business

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.
photo by Mike Hawkey
photo by Mike Hawkey

Words like “journey” and “pilgrimage” to describe my faith have become very important to me over the last 10 years or so.

I know some might cringe at the thought of using such a non-theological, wishy-washy-sunshine-lollipops-and-rainbows description of faith. And I can’t fully blame people for thinking that way, because the metaphor has been co-opted by bad self-help rhetoric.

But it’s an ancient and biblical metaphor, and casual misuse doesn’t define its value.

The life of faith is indeed a journey. Proverbs–the core book of wisdom in the Old Testament–goes on and on about life as a way or path.

The early movement to follow Jesus was called the Way (Acts 9:2).

The Christian life is not about building a fortress and remaining inside no matter what, with no further places to tread, nothing left to discover.

Faith is always on the move—because life keeps happening.

Journey is not a casual metaphor. All journeys have difficult stretches.

Skies can become dark, the landscapes barren.

We may often find ourselves shoeless, without a backpack, or change of clothes. And it’s raining cats and dogs.

We come across new and challenging circumstances that we cannot preempt. We never know what is waiting around the bend.

We may need to rest on the ground from time to time to catch our breath, especially if the path is steep before us. We may need to take a break in a lodging place along the road. But to keep moving eventually is a given.

The path does not end, not as long as we are flesh and blood, anyway. There is no summit to reach where we can look down on others below.

And it’s common to wonder whether we’re on the right path at all, and whether the journey is worth it. We can’t really know. We walk by faith (better: trust), not by sight (better: certainty).

Anyway, I’ve caught on over the years how this ancient metaphor hits the nail on the head. I’m certainly still working out what it means.

photo credit, MikeHawkey.com

 

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