The Heroic Journey Home
Next week means Back to School for many. For me it means back to Salve Regina University, where I begin another semester teaching a required World Religions course, “The Quest for the Ultimate.” The Quest is about the most heroic journey any of us will ever make: the journey Home. The journey Home is the journey into the Ultimate dimension of life; it is a journey into the Home that is God. The journey is also one of the fiercest, most grueling adventures we will ever take, for it is a journey that takes place within us. Sometimes, it also takes place externally.
When I was twenty-one years old, I read a book that changed my life. It was called, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere: Discovering God through a Discovery of Your True Self, by James Finley, a student of the great Roman Catholic mystic, Thomas Merton. In this book Finley says that we all go through our lives adding layer upon layer to the masks that we wear: the roles we play in our families, in school, in our careers. But at some point we grow weary of wearing so many layers of armor. We long for freedom from this heaviness we carry around with us, day by day. We experience some kind of epiphany, or sense some kind of an invitation, to begin the process of peeling away the layers, one by one. We begin to peel away the masks with which life has clothed us. Somewhere, beneath it all, we find a spark flickering beneath the dark, heavy sheaths of roles and expectations and responsibilities. We glimpse who we really are: our True Self, and in so doing, we find God within.
This summer, in preparation for my vacation to Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland, I did some reading. One book I read is called, Ireland, by Frank Delaney. It is a beautiful story of a young boy and his life-changing encounter with an old Story Teller. On one occasion, the Story Teller begins his tale: “I’m greatly drawn to epic people.The heroic in humanity is something for which we should all reach in ourselves.” Joseph Campbell, in his epic, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, tells us that the great heroes of every religious tradition – Moses, Buddha, Mary, Jesus, Muhammad – all follow the same pattern: call (invitation); setting out on the “journey;” testing in the “wilderness;”and finally returning Home. Strengthened from the time of testing, the heroes are ready to begin their mission to fulfill their Call, by sharing their experience with others, and inviting them into this process, this Heroic Journey Home.
It seems that the summer months are often a time for journeying. Many people travel on vacation. For others it is a time of breaking the day-in, day-out pattern of school, or work, or routine. But by the end of my vacation, I began to itch for Home. I felt that deep longing for the beloved familiar.
How about you? Where has life’s journey led you? Do you hear the invitation? “Come Home.” May this blog be an invitation to you, no matter how far you have wandered, how long your journey, how many your burdens, how grueling or challenging the testing, God invites you to come Home. Come home to a community of faith. If you are in Rhode Island, Come Home to First Lutheran Church, or to the Church Beyond the Walls. Come home to God.
This day may you see God in all you encounter,
and may you reflect God to all you encounter.
Linda Forsberg, Copyright August 31, 2016
Photos: Ted, on the cliffs overlooking Tintagel Castle, England; the path to the light house, near Portland, OR; Linda Tintagel Castle, England; Ted, Great Dunes, CA; Ted and Iznik at Home: Second Beach, Newport, RI; Ted and Sylvie, Marblehead, MA