“We stopped at this gas station somewhere down in Nebraska there, and, ah, there was this guy, this old guy, sittin on the porch of this house.
We said, ‘How far is the next gas station down the road here?’
He said, ‘This road goes all the way to California.’ He said that. ‘But I’ve never been down it.’
I remember that, things like that, ‘never been down it.'”
(Tom Fugal. 22 days under the sky)
Never been down it? That line made me sad. Ohnthe great things and people we miss in our own back yard. A few years back I made a resolution to tap into what is right around me, both in my African and Canadian contexts.
Been missing Africa the last few weeks. Not depressed, but feeling sad. Had little time to really process much with being at sea every day for very long hours. Fishing is a demanding life. I like the freedom out there on the sea. Immersed in nature, few distractions from its intensity. Africa has been at the end of most of my life roads, and I have been down it. I can’t imagine having never been down those West African roads.
“In a world of talkers, Mack is a thinker and doer. He doesn’t say much unless you ask him directly, which most folks have learned not to do.” (William P. Young. The Shack)
Sunday morning saw me alive in the predawn hours and felt I needed to have an adventure with the LAND. To get away and have time… just time, with no agenda. But it was misting and foggy. Not an ideal motorcycle day. But there were roads I had to go down. I felt it in my bones.
So, like a good Canadian, I soon concluded that if I only rode the motorcycle on sunny warm days, there would be few rides. I asked Lynn if she wanted to ride, but she was recuperating from a cold and passed. I eventually pulled away with everyone fast asleep.
We take so little time for life. We build, buy, posses, and own, and then fix and maintain it all. Now we are in slavery to the monster of money, banks, economic systems that seek to enslave us for their profit, working our lives away. that is a road, I’ve been down it.
Within a few hours I left Prince Edward Island, via the twelve kilometers bridge, at an adventure crossing fee of eighteen dollars for a motorcycle.
Once in New Brunswick, at the tired and long since expired sleepy town of Port Elgin, I passed through its locked up and abandoned main street to quickly enter Nova Scotia. In a few short kilometers I connect the Sunrise Trail, and turned South. At the intersection to the Trail, in Tidnish I stopped for breakfast as a rural diner.
I just drove on an on. Stopping as many times as I wanted, looking around, observing, soaking it all in – for no reason, with no agenda. This day was going to be thoroughly exhausted before I went home. I was going to go down every inch of this road. I stared at fields, the sea, wagons and farms.
I saw vineyards, and small Micro Breweries as I drove along Amherst Shore, Port Howe, and on to Pugwash. From Pugwash to Malagash, through Wallace Bay, and Tatamagouche. I was going to all the way to Pictou, but stopped in River John for a long long time.
I am a fisherman, a humanitarian development worker. But a few of you know that I was once a Theologian. Depends on who you ask, some will say I am retired, some will say I have expired from religion. I want nothing to do with Institutional faith anymore. But the soul is a mysterious thing, and one can never give up God once you have found him. I mean truly found him. My faith is more alive than ever, but lived out in simpler form than ever before as well. I walk with an outside the box tribe that few in the box know exists. Moving in the shadows of the steeple, outside the mainstream religious flow of programs and events. I requires no buildings to express it.
In River John I found a church that my Minister uncle once preached at, while he attended his theological college. While I studied theology, I too had the opportunity to speak at this church one time, a Church of Christ in River John. It was at least twenty eight years ago. (Keep in mind I was ordained when I was 23)
I could not locate the Church building at first. It is on the main street in River John, but I drove past it twice, as it is a simple structure, not Gothic or glorious by any means. A place built by people with simple faith, requiring only a simple structure with which to practice it.
I had to find the place. It had been on my mind since morning. I drove back and forth through the town and it was not until the third pass I finally saw it. A small sign on the wall is all that set it apart.
But its closed now, for many long years it has been closed. It is a summer time museum of some sort now. I have no idea what came over me, but I was quite emotional about the whole thing. On that Sunday afternoon, I held “church of one” on the steps of this long since closed down church. I prayed, meditated, and ran scripture through my mind. In tears most of the time. Must have been some sight to see this motorcycle dude in Armor Jacket having communion on the front step. But it was a time of deep reflection for me. I came from a tradition where church was a place we go to, a building with services and events to attend, on Sunday. Now, to a place where “Church” is a people we connect and gather with, big or small, two or three- or thirty, does not matter, building or not, happening any day or the week, or even every day of the week.
“The average church has so established itself organizationally and financially that God is simply not necessary to it. So entrenched is its authority and so stable are the religious habits of its members that God could withdraw Himself completely from it and it could run on for years on its own momentum.” – A.W. Tozer
Hear me out. I am not trying to convince you of anything, nor to condemn the past. As I sat on the steps of the past, my past, I wondered what are we doing, this decentralized and free faith, where is this heading? Truth is I don’t know. I connected with my past, while sitting in worship in the preset on the steps, in my present reality, looking ahead to the future. I left with a great hope, of a faith people free from containers, some domineering clergy, control. Jesus can and does lead his people, always has, always will. But I have a deep respect for the structures, because they lead me to where I am today. Why should we scorn the faith and practice of our fathers, or our grandfathers? And Heaven forbid you follow me! Where is all this heading? If it is a deeper spiritual walk, I’m walking with you. If it’s walking away, I can not join you. Our souls are alive, and need water from the well. But I could never go back to expressing and living out my faith in the ways I once did.
This motorcycle adventure was as much an adventure of the soul as anything. Don’t forget your soul! Its not a road I want to say “That road goes all the way to…… But I’ve never been down it.”
“The mystics of all the great religions, along with classic literature like Homer’s Odyssey, intuited that life was a journey involving completion of a first half and transition to a second half, sometimes called “a further journey.” Yet most of us were given the impression that life was a matter of learning and obeying the rules; and those who obeyed them won. Many of our pastoral problems and the foundational alienation from religion in Europe and North America stems from the lack of initiation and depth. Mainline Christianity does not seem to be giving people access to God, to the soul, or to the joy and freedom promised in the Scriptures. Christianity is not doing its primary job well–moving people from the first to the second half of life.
At some point along the journey, if you’re honest and open, you will realize there’s more to life. This experience is hardly inviting or encouraging, and so many of us turn back. In “The Inferno: Canto 1,” The Divine Comedy, Dante describes the human experience: “In the middle of life, I found myself in a dark wood.” If you’re letting life happen to you, you will be led to the dark wood where you have to ask: “What does it all mean? Why am I doing this? Why don’t I feel fully alive or that my life has meaning? What am I doing wrong?” Most of us have bouts of immense self-doubt…… ” (Father, Richard Rohr)
I have been down to a few beaches here on Prince Edward Island, ones i have never walked before. I found sea glass and treasures. I have enjoyed looking at them. Now, I would like to give them to someone who will appreciate them. Preferably some from outside of the east coast of Canada. Will you cherish my treasures from some of my journeys? I am not collecting addresses or email, and have no intention of spamming you. It will all be safely deleted after I send the seaglass off. But send me a private note, with your mailing address and I will mail you this Island sea-glass for free. Tell me a story about yourself in the process – for no reason, other than knowing I will enjoy and cherish your story.
Email your mailing address into to me at Andy@manofpeacedevelopment.org