A tale of two journeys

Attempting to practice restfulness, I had a beautiful walk alongside the Royal Military Canal in Hythe yesterday. It’s a short drive from Folkestone and a lovely town in its own right. I could smell the flowers, listen to the birds, feel the warmth of the sun on my face. A thirty minutes gentle stroll. 

One of my politically minded friends (who shall remain nameless) has suggested to me that we can solve the housing issues in Hythe by getting rid of the canal. Can you imagine the outraged furore that would ensue? I chuckle at the mischief it would cause even to suggest it! 

I thought I’d lull you into a false sense of security. After my lovely walk I’ve ended up back in hospital. Maybe my dodgy ticker couldn’t manage the walk. Maybe I should have stuck to watching the West Wing (37 episodes since Saturday…) But honestly, a little gentle exercise was prescribed and did my mental health no end of good. Here’s the photo from my second journey of the day. 

This is Dave, your friendly first responder and paramedic. A long standing member of the night shift cadre in East Kent, he turned up at 252 Dover Road just before 2am. A very friendly guide, Dave chaperoned me all the way through to A&E. 

‘Life’s journey’ is such a cliché, isn’t it? Our family love chuckling while watching these TV shows like Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice where B List celebrities in floods of tears tell of the amazing journeys they’ve been on. But, in reality, life is a bit of a journey. Sometimes that journey is like a stroll down the Royal Military Canal. Sometimes it’s like a cold and bumpy ambulance journey in the middle of the night. 

It’s like that line from Kipling’s ‘If’ poem

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster.  And treat those two impostors just the same;  Rudyard Kipling ‘If”

It’s also like that oft misquoted verse of scripture. It addresses the question of whether God gives his followers a particularly blessed life, free of the rotten bits of the journey. People say that the sun shines on the righteous but…

For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.     Matthew 5:45

Or as Job says when God takes away all his worldly possessions, his beautiful kids too,  and leaves him sitting in rags in the dust, scraping the boils off his skin with a bit of broken pot: 

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21

Not to put a downer on things, but Jesus never promised following him would be a rose garden either. He said we need to pick up our cross to follow him, to be willing to leave behind all the things that are precious to us, that the road would be narrow and the path steep.

So where on earth do we get the idea that the journey would be always blessed? Did God ever promise his followers a walk in the park or a stroll along the canal? Well… yes He does. From the very start of his nation-building plans, God takes Abraham, an ordinary guy, and promises to make him the patriarch of a worldwide family. But He does this through a life of struggle. David sings of God’s blessings in the Psalms. He says ‘my cup runneth over’ but he knew that blessing as a ‘man of blood’ in the midst of a life of warfare and battle. Hannah sung a song of praise when God gave her a longed-for baby, but then fulfilled her vow my giving him up to serve God many miles from home. 

It really is a tale of two journeys. God’s blessing and his struggle. So I imagine a rather strange journey where one walks along the river bank and see the swans gracefully gliding by, then hop into the ambulance for the bumpy track, then back to smell the flowers, then finding a few epic potholes. 

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. And God, by his grace, was in all of the journeying.