To journey without being changed
is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying
is to be a chameleon.
To journey and to be transformed
by the journey
is to be a pilgrim.
I often say in recovery meetings that if God took me out of his oven today and declared me “done”—I’d be utterly devastated.
Which is probably why I love this poem by Mark Nepo. Few things mean more to me these days than the hope of change—the promise that I might be a better person tomorrow than I am today.
This wasn’t always the case. Especially during my drinking years, I was the nomad in Nepo’s poem—journeying without being changed.
How could it be otherwise? You can’t numb yourself to life and expect to be shaped by your experiences. You can’t pickle your brain in alcohol every day and hope to grow anything but smaller.
I have also been the second person in Nepo’s poem—the chameleon who changes without journeying. Especially during the formative years of my Christian faith, what I fancied as spiritual growth—changing my beliefs, friends, and taboos—was really more about conforming to the Christian culture around me.
When I first got sober, I imagined that by removing alcohol from my system, I’d instantly be restored to some former, better Heather—and spiritual transformation would quickly follow.
Instead, putting down the bottle did little or nothing to improve my personality. Mostly, it threw a spotlight on my immaturity and selfishness.
Given this painful blow to my ego, I determined to work a “strong program”—to be the best damn recovering drunk there ever was—much the same way I had once striven to be a “strong Christian.”
I was arrogant enough to think I could accomplish that without actually working the 12 Steps or getting a sponsor.
After six months, I relapsed. Duh!
In the five years since, I’ve slowly been learning the difference between the part I play in my spiritual growth and the part only God can play.
I can take needed actions and make good choices. I can try to do the next right thing. But only God has the power to actually transform my soul, to alter my nature at its very core.
So if I want to become the pilgrim in Nepo’s poem—journeying and being changed by the journey—my most important job is to offer the least possible resistance to the work of God’s hand.
For me, that means taking time every morning to sit in silence and surrender. It means inviting God through prayer to access every corner of my heart.
It means meditating on the One in whose likeness I will someday awaken.
I’d love to hear from you today. How does your soul grow?