At 72, my steps are slower, more measured, and the threat of falling is greater, but the need to keep taking steps has never been more important. Today is our twelfth Palm Sunday here in Tanzania, and I never thought I’d be saying that. We have come a long, long way in the last twelve years while staying in exactly the same spot. I have lived in this house here in Bunda, Tanzania, longer than I have ever lived anywhere. And yet, it has still been a journey even though I was staying in one place. It was a process by which I have become a different person than the rash (dare I say “young”) man I was when I arrived. A process with lots of ups and downs, suffering, pain, and joy beyond understanding—such is the result of being part of a process begun by God. I have come to realize that becoming a Christian is a process too, not an instantaneous event, which has to begin with a small step toward God and then one must continue with more and more steps toward an ever cleaner and more loving heart. Even as it becomes more painful for me to do so, I must keep taking the steps that lead me to a better me. The Christian life IS a journey. The focus should be on the journey and not the destination. Others have asked me about my “faith journey” and I have had to tell them it was more of a “faith meander” than a journey. Journey is not a word that we fully understand in our western world. For us to journey is to travel on a bus, in a car, or on a plane, and we travel just to get somewhere—the destination is what matters and how fast we can get there. There is a saying here that if you want to get somewhere fast, walk alone. If you want to enjoy the journey, walk with someone. Walk with your hand in the hand of the man who brings light to your darkness. Yours is a journey that should not be taken alone.
Becoming an authentic Christian is a revolution of character from the inside and starts with small steps, but always moving forward. You may stumble and stop, but if you get back up and continue on, nothing is lost. It is not an instantaneous process. We live in a culture geared towards quick results. In the words of Eugene H. Peterson, the Christian is both disciple and pilgrim. A disciple is a learner, not in the intellectual sense but more like an apprentice who works next to a craftsman. The Christian is also a pilgrim because a Christian life is spent on a journey with and towards God. It is for us pilgrims, filling ourselves more and more with the joy and comfort that is God, to keep the journey going, not worrying about the destination or the time spent traveling. One day, I will become much more like Christ—if I can keep going in the right direction. I know this, but I also know that I must take baby steps to get there. As long as I keep becoming a little better Christian, day by day, God will be pleased as will I. But I must take those baby steps every day, as must you, no matter how slowly or carefully we must take them. Every journey is ten times more pleasant if we have a fellow traveler who is enjoying the experience with us. As Jesus said to some who asked Him where He was going, He said, “Come and see.” Let’s do that, eh? If you hold out your hand, Christ will take it gently in His and you shall walk together. What greater joy is there?