It happens that the campus from which I write this missive has a very fine network of sidewalks. Once can get almost anywhere they need or want to without stepping on the grass. It also has well placed signs and maps to help one unfamiliar with the campus find where they need to go. The buildings are also mostly clearly marked with some form of identity. In short, its hard to get lost here. But I confess that early on I did!
Today however there are visitors on campus for one reason or another. Im not totally sure why. And a creative and helpful soul or two had taken it upon themselves to help the visitors find their way. As I walked about the campus, I found that at every major building, there were arrows pointing and the name of the building written clearly and artistically. I was impressed! But then I discovered that not only were these helpful additions to the campus directory, they were also words of encouragement. Along my walk I found things like…. ” keep going this way” or ” You can do it!” And I thought to myself how welcoming and simply outright fun this was. It actually made me walk quite a bit farther than I intended, simply because I wanted to see what was next.
All of us are on some form of sidewalk journey in our faith experience. Sidewalks serve a really useful purpose. They help us get where we need to go as easily as possible. Sometimes we decide to take a path other than the sidewalk, and sometimes for good reason. That’s what we call free will! But in general, sidewalks are useful in pointing the way to a destination. We have our our spiritual sidewalk of sorts, the lives we lead and the kind of practices that we use to get to our spiritual goal. Put several of these goals together and you have a larger spiritual journey.
I noticed that not all the sidewalks on campus are the same. Some of them are wider, I suppose because they get more traffic. Others are well worn with age. A few are brand new, and thus far, rarely traveled. This is the spiritual life. Our sidewalk changes with the circumstances of our lives and the spiritual growth of our journey. Sometimes a new piece of sidewalk appears where it was not before. In fact just this summer a new piece was placed on a section where hundreds of students were walking because it was a path that made better sense. Sometimes in our own lives we find this too, that we create a new path where we need it. Thats grace in action!
But the sidewalks are so much more enjoyable when they are decorated with signposts and words of encouragement. We have these in our spiritual life all the time. Seeing them sometimes can be difficult, but they are there. A kind word from a friend, or that feeling of interior warmth when you see something beautiful. A dream that has meaning, or a spiritual experience that aids our growth. The feeling of connection that comes when prayer goes well….. Even that feeling of dryness when it doesnt, is a sign…a sign that we are on the journey towards God. Its helpful when we have those signs and know that they are there.
The funny thing about sidewalk chalk is that it is temporary. As nice as the sidewalks are today, it is highly likely that it will rain tonight and that the words and images will be gone. Our spiritual sign posts are just like that. There for the moment we need them, but fleeting. The trick is knowing them and knowing how to use them until the next signs in our journey appear. The signs are not likely to be just the same as the last time we saw them, but they will come. Just as I know that at some future date someone will decorate our campus sidewalks again. Its now something that I will look forward too, and it reminds me to pay attention to the sidewalks in my own journey. May your journey be filled with signs and wonders!