I was reminded by a wise acquaintance this morning of the importance of being present to the journey. This was in response to my explanation as to why I was taking so long over walking Hadrian’s Wall. It has been a recurring question. On my first day I was told the story of one man who had run the entire Wall in just 16 hours. Why on earth should I take nine days to do the same?
My answer to the question includes the fact that for me what matters is that I complete the journey not how long it takes. As a society, and sadly sometimes as a church, we seem obsessed with speed, doing things faster and faster. We want instant results or else we think what we’re doing isn’t working. But just as when I drive along the motorway, the hedgerows become a blur, so we can easily miss seeing all sorts of things when we travel too fast.
Today I was accompanied by Hilary, my youngest daughter, who is just 9 years old. Hilary was concerned that I not be on my own so committed to walking with me for the whole of Day 7. I confess this came as a surprise since she is not the world’s greatest walker and usually tires quite quickly and would much rather be sat in front of a TV or an iPad!
However, Hilary also has a very important gift, one of the many things I cherish about her but rarely get the opportunity to enjoy. Hilary is never in a hurry! On a school day when trying to get out of the house on time, it can be and frequently is infuriating, but on a day like today it was an absolute delight.
We stopped to wonder at the lapwing flying overhead, at the cute newborn lambs in the fields, and at the mating damselflies in the hedgerow. We stopped to listen to the chaffinches singing and see the swallows swooping. Hilary insisted on taking photos of the tiniest flowers and the vast panoramic landscapes. I think we spent a good twenty minutes stalking a butterfly which kept moving further down the path every time Hilary got a little too close with my phone camera.
All of this meant the journey took longer than it might have done and we ended the day at the Robin Hood Inn, not quite as far as I’d planned but I really don’t mind. We had a wonderful day as Hilary taught me to notice things again, not to be afraid to stop and wonder. This is what I think it means to be present to the journey, to savour this moment, this experience. It’s what our Walks with Wonder back at St Denys are all about, and I am as much in need of being reminded of that as anyone else.
To quote Danny Pink from a previous serious of Doctor Who: ‘I don’t want to see more things, I want to see more clearly the things I have in front of me.’
The Celtic Christians were much more aware than we are today I think of the significance of the ‘now’. In the final lines of that Celtic prayer I’ve been learning:
You are the light, the truth, the way
You are my Saviour this very day