One Man. A Journey. A Return.

I have not tried anything remotely like this on this blog yet. Likely I won’t do it often. Let me know waddya think. So, with a little trepidation …

Once upon a time, a young man was selected from those in his parish to go on a mission. He was excited and had some nervousness in the months prior to leaving, and used every waking moment to prepare for his departure. He read some on the customs and languages of the place he was to go. But, as he was assured that he would have excellent guides he mostly worried about his studies and his faith. When he was at worship he tried to remember all of the parts of worship and liturgy.  He tried to prepare for the possibility that, for everything that he saw, did and observed, he might be questioned about its origin and purpose. Therefore he asked questions of everyone persistently trying to make sure he had it all right. Then came the momentous day.

He was to leave. Departure and his journey passed in a confusing frantic blur, mixed with delay, and dark quiet airline seats and awareness that the sounds and smells and people around him were becoming less and less like those with which he was familiar.

For the land to which he was going, people of his faith were rare and unknown. He would indeed be a stranger in a land of strange and unknown customs, patterns and practices. Accordingly, at all times he regarded himself as an ambassador of his faith. That his every fleeting contact, every action would be a chance to connect with these strangers, to show by his love, his charity, and his presence what sort of faith and people he represented. At first, every act he performed somewhat self-consciously, reflecting that each act would be observed, perhaps critically, by strange unloving, judgmental eyes. Those eyes, trying to discern by his actions what sort of man he was … and thereby what sort of a people those of his faith were. Eventually, the self-consciousness faded somewhat as many of his actions and responses became more habitual. But that didn’t help at all. For it really didn’t get easier, those things which became habit exposed all the other things which he was forgetting or didn’t learn as well as he should have during his prior frantic, inadequate, and continuing, but now more careful, study.

Then came the time to return.

How was he changed by his trip? Why did he even have to leave for that change to take place? Why don’t we all always treat our every action as if we are that man representing Christ and his Church here in this strange land here on the hard lonely side of the eschaton?

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  1. At the front of many synagogues is a verse, in hebrew, that says “Know before whom you stand.” I always liked that, even though the “whom” has changed to “nobody” now. 🙂

    I had a similar experience, but with a twist. When I was in college, I wore a yarmulka at first, so I was conspicuously an Orthodox Jew. I felt like I was an “ambassador of my faith” in a sense. The only problem was that I was fast on my way to becoming an atheist and no longer believed the things that the yarmulka represented. That was when I decided that my yarmulka-wearing days were done.

  2. Mark, do try this again, it was quite refreshing! That’s a great story with many applications and good food for thought as I go about my living.

  3. Mark says:

    Thanks for your remarks on this.

    Jewish tradition has a lot of ways of announcing separation, which Christianity has set aside … and perhaps you have hit on one of the reasons this is a bad thing.

    Many non-Christian Roman writers noted the Christians in part because of their astounding sexual restraint. I think that distinction is somewhat less pronounced these days, as are other ways in which we “separate”.

    I’ll try it again sometimes. Thanks for the encouragement.