Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5
In recent days parts of our country was hit by Cyclone Gita. In the matter of a few hours, river burst their banks, and there had been a number of massive slips. Part of State Highway 1 that had only recently been reopened after earthquake damage in 2016 again incurred major slip damage. Other major roads had land slips that stranded tourist and made it difficult for essential supplies to get through. Some of the towns had been cut off for a number of days and the repairs to many of the roads have only one lane open.
As I watched the coverage and read reports I quickly got a sense of the awesome power that nature can unleash. It had already caused major devastation in the South Pacific, particularly on the island nation of Tonga and to a lesser degree, Samoa.
As I was viewing the news I got a picture of the journey I was currently on with the Lord. I have felt strongly for a little while now that God had been nudging me to a deeper work in my own soul. I can only describe it as a longing for something more, as I recognised in my heart that I was on a pilgrimage into my inward soul. It was like the Lord saying that it is He alone who can take me from one to the other.
I love the word pilgrimage and for me it so clearly describes my Christian journey. It is also a theme that fits well with my analogy of walking with Jesus. So, I started on the journey seeking the Lord’s leading and guidance as I began to take each step.
What became apparent almost immediately were the obstacles lay before me. I’ve read that obstacles to the prayer of the heart come from two sources: from the left and from the right. This means that if the enemy fails to prevent us from praying through our vain thought life, he then stirs within us memories of all thoughts of edifying things, or he entices us with pleasant thoughts – anything at all, just to lure us away from prayer, which is unbearable to him.
It was in these moments that the picture of the road slips and landslips filled my mind and I began to realise that for me to pursue this inward journey, there were going to be obstacles in the way. Looking in front of me was debris strewn across my path. I was in a battle with the enemy and under no circumstance did he want me to make this pilgrimage.
But something interesting was also occurring. The still and quiet time with Jesus in the secret place each morning remained solid and strong, but the real work, the new work, this season of pilgrimage, I was finding it becoming difficult. Where the landslip really impacted was when I was given time to explore this inward journey, I got “prayer block.” Nothing I could do was changing and I was surrounded by the landslides.
I would love to write now that I was able to clear all the debris and move on, but this is not the case and I am still navigating my way through it.
But something did change – and it came from being silent – absolutely silent. By not speaking, nor desiring nor reasoning I was able to reach the central place of the inward walk – the place where God speaks to our inward person. It is there that God communicated Himself to my spirit and the inmost depth of my being. He guides us to a place where He alone speaks His most secret and hidden heart. I could only enter this through all silence to hear the Divine within me.
The silence of speech, silence of desires and silence of reasoning … only, before an open door, where God may communicate Himself to us. It is the place that He transforms us into Himself.
For a fleeting moment I had caught a glimpse of my inward soul. But the speech, the desires, the reasoning quickly resurfaced, and the moment was lost. I quickly found myself back on the pathway, noting some of the debris cleared, but also much work still to be done before I can dwell in the inner soul.
As I reflected on this experience I claimed the promise of the Psalmist:
‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion’ – Psalm 84:5-7