Wineskins Archive

November 26, 2013

Harbour Lights: Companions for the Journey (Sept-Oct 2002)

Filed under: — @ 2:40 am and

By Michael Harbour

We all know that life has a beginning, a middle, and an end. There are a host of metaphors that I like for life. Life is a book with chapters and pages. Junior high can be a chapter. When you got married (if you did) you turned a page, began an new chapter, a new theme. When someone you loved died, a chapter of your life came to a close. Life is a journey. We are on our way, at least toward the end. We hope that there is some purpose, some  destiny, some ultimate destination that is worth the trials of the trail. Of course I trust that the one who created me has a plan for me.

Why are there trials on the trail? Why isn’t life easier? I am beginning to teach a series of lessons in church from the Old Testament book of Exodus. The story is about God drawing his people out of slavery, and leading them to the Promised Land. When I read that story I am astonished that God did not have a better plan worked out before he got all of those folks across the Red Sea and into the wilderness. There was no water or food for the people. Why wasn’t there a Ramada Inn or something where the people could get rest and refreshment? Why isn’t life easier? Surely the God of the universe could have worked this out! My answer is that we are changed by the challenges along the way. The journey is as important as the destination. We are refined in the trials of the trail. God has determined that we would lead interesting lives. Easy is boring. Difficult makes us think. Difficulty shows us our neediness for each other. It is here that we learn our values.

One of the great privileges of being alive is the discovery of companions along the way. Have you thought about your companions? <p>

This is the time of year when children go off to college. They are beginning a new chapter of their lives. They are leaving some of their companions. Are my children my companions? Indeed, they are. I like my children. I am happy to be with them, and am proud of the human beings that they are. They have been with their mother and me all of the days of their lives to this point. I did not choose them as companions. They were and are a temporary gift. Of course I am thinking of the various ways that the chapter will end. It could end with them going away to college, or with their wedding, or with my death, or theirs. One day we will part. It will be a season of trial on the trail.

My wife is my companion. I like my wife. It is astonishing to me that we have been together for more than twenty-one years. We choose each other for the journey. We promise to help one another along the Way. We have done pretty well at that so far. I know what a rare thing that is these days. I count that a grace from God that I have not soured the deal, as fallen as I am. I am thankful that she is who she is. “Marriage is like a box of chocolates,” some wise man once said, “you never know what you are going to get!” The relationship will come to an end one day. Sometimes we are broken. Sometimes, the trial along the trail includes our mortality. “Until death do us part,” is what we say. It almost always does.

My friends are my companions. We get a handful of real friends in a lifetime. I am pretty clingy with my friends. It is not that I need daily contact with them. It is just that I do not want those relationships to come to an end too soon. Friendships come and go. Friendship means that we share the journey of our lives with some intentionality. I know that male friendship in our culture is different from female friendship. Men are lower maintenance. With my friends, we can go for months without a conversation, and then when we meet, we don’t skip a beat. There have been friends that I have lost. I failed them. Or perhaps I was disappointed in them, and let them go. God brings us new friends from time to time.

My church family members are my companions. Sometimes they become friends. Sometimes they are just those people who share a common hope, a common understanding of the destiny and the destination. These companions are those who are giving their energy to a common task, namely the imitation of Christ. Sometimes I struggle with these companions. Sometimes we don’t see eye to eye, but we will not let each other go. There is more that holds us together than what drives us apart. On some spiritual level these relationships will not end. On an everyday level these companions leave,

too. Sometimes they move. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they just can’t put up with some sour relationship and go across town to church. A new chapter begins.<p>
My one constant companion is Jesus. He is alive for me. His Spirit lives within me. His steadfast love will not let me go, even when I am weak, when I am a disastrous disappointment. Death will not part us, either. Every time I move, Jesus comes, too. If every other companion left me, if I ruined it all, Jesus would be the place where I would start again, on the journey, finding companions, getting home. I think there will be companions in the epilog, in the story after the last chapter, too. I am not sure who they will be. I hope that my companions here will be the ones there. The one I am sure of, however, is Jesus who never leaves. “Jesus died for sins, once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

That is my story. This is my journey. I think I can manage the trials along the trail, with these, my blessed companions.

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