pilgrimage

When I was little we lived at 707 New North Rd (Auckland).


When I was 3 we moved to India (Chandigarh, Herbertpur...).

When I was 7 we moved to 707 New North Rd (Auckland).

When I was 8 we moved to India (Landour, Old Delhi ...).

When I was 12 we moved to 707 New North Rd (Auckland).


When I was 13 we moved to India (New Delhi, boarding school...).

When I was 17 we moved to 707 New North Rd (Mt Albert, Auckland).

When I was 21 we moved to Chicago, Ill (USA).

When I was 25 we moved to Invercargill (New Zealand).

When I was 30 we moved to Auckland, eventually into our first home at 20 Pinedale Place.

Then when I turned 36 it dawned on me.
It was like a mini, early mid-life crisis. Until that age I had never lived anywhere longer than five years. Not that unusual for many people, I guess. But for me every shift had been continental (apart from Invercargill to Auckland, which some would argue is roughly equivalent!). So in terms of time, the shifts were frequent. In terms of space, the shifts were vast. And it all happened before the advent of email and skype, I might add. At times I felt my life cursed by pilgrimage, rather than blessed by it (Psalm 84).

At 36, it was time to reflect. I saw the upsides. A flexibility. An ability to make friends easily. But also the downsides. An instability. An ability to drop friends just as easily - because always I had to do so. It was part of the rhythm of my life.

Then life changed - dramatically.

When I was 38 we shifted intersuburbanly, from Henderson (West Auckland) to Roskill (Central Auckland) and stayed there for eleven years. When I was 49 we shifted intrasuburbanly, from Roskill North to Roskill South and we've been here - once again in our own home at 16B Budgen St - for four years. So for fifteen years we have been living in the same suburb of Auckland. What a change.

But now - at 53 - we are back among the continental shifts, with a return to pilgrimage. Barby and I have been granted visas and expect to move to Bangalore (India) on 3 September, basing our lives and work at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS).

Reflecting on our own pilgrimage is always good for us. 
[NB: I tried to do some here when I turned 50 years of age]

In all this shifting, be it continental or suburban,
three things stick out for me. They've held me. They've kept me.


1. All the "I"s occur in the company of "we"s.
The community which is family is critical. The human family has been precious. My parents did a fine job of keeping our family glued together through all the shifts. But the family of God is equally precious. My parents also kept us glued into local churches and we've tried to follow their example. Barby and I have never regretted making church participation a habit in our family life.

2. The numbers 707, 20, and 16B are digits to savour
I have no difficulty understanding why indigenous peoples feel so strongly about land. When you have been moved this way and that - voluntarily, or oppressively - to have a piece of land, even a home, you call your own is so stabilising and healing. Sure, I know it is God's gift - but it is one of the precious ones on which I have thrived. As a little boy I remember feeling reassured when continental shifts were made on a Boeing 707 because the number matched the address of our home. Even to this day, when I walk onto that piece of land at 707 my spirit takes flight.

3. Remaining responsive to God
Whether the shift be intercontinental or intrasuburban, the key is to free God to lead the way - because 'the finger that points the way is part of the hand that provides'. The essence of biblical spirituality is one that listens to God and obeys what He says - 'trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy'. But when all is said and done, pilgrimage has little to do with continents or suburbs and much to do with knowing and 'practicing the presence of God' - wherever that takes us, day by day and year by year.

nice chatting

Paul




Comments

Pretty interesting! Hope your pilgrimage to Bangalore will be a memorable one too.
Greg and Sarah said…
We are all glad you were able to stay in Mt Roskill for as long as you have. To cement our friendship, impart your wisdom, add calm to our chaos... To do life with our family. We are going to miss you tonnes!
Paul said…
Happy ten years G & S.

Hope we see you in Bangalore sometime, Simon.