A Necessary Journey

August 18, 2017

I’m at a time of transition. In preparation for the next page in my vocational journal, between packing boxes, and embarking on an interstate move, I carved out time to steal away, up a mountain, to pray. A cabin amid the treetops of north Georgia, near water, and mid-week calm. A Quiet Retreat for restoration and renewal.

Yet, in light of the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the intention of this time shifted in me. It became, instead, a “DisQuieting Retreat. A time to discern my response to the reality of escalating racial unrest in our time.

It can’t be denied – the demonstrations and violence by white supremacists carrying torches, shouting slurs, and inciting fear, even bodily harm and death, make denial impossible and reprehensible.

So what am I, a person of privilege, to do?

What am I, a follower of Jesus, to do?

What I am, a teacher, preacher, and pastor, to do?

First, I have to embrace the truth that I have my own work to do, to better understand the reality at hand, and what has caused it. So, I took a few books with me for this time of learning. Books I’ve been accumulating, but not reading. Books written by folks who look different than me; who’ve lived a different experience than I have; who reveal more clearly the impact of privilege and White American’s obliviousness to it.

I tuned-in recent documentaries that reveal the injustice that emerged under the guise of freedom, and the dehumanization of people of color by individuals and institutions of our country. A country many say they are proud of, yet only by turning a blind eye to our tragic, flawed, misguided past – and present.

This is hard stuff, yet it is a necessary journey.

On the last full day of my DisQuieting Retreat, with much of what I’ve read, seen, and heard swirling within me, I decided to find a hiking trail to busy my body on this warm summer day. At first I was just going to do the short Lake Trail, staying uncommitted to the more strenuous Lower Falls hike. I wasn’t sure I was really prepared for the possible difficulty it held, knowing all too well that a rating of “Moderate” by some may feel more “Challenging” to others.

So the journey on the Lake Trail began.









The walk was longer than I had expected, but “Easy” was a pretty accurate rating, though not without ankle-twisting risk if you took your eye off the trail.






A bit further along came a moment of decision…

How tempting taking the Wildflower Path was. An open, carefree meadow-trail leading back to the comfort and safety of what was familiar.

Yet, the lure of the Lower Falls trail was calling me. Surely I would be able to traverse it. If it gets too difficult, I could always turn back – the luxury of the privileged.

So, on I went.


There were a few unexpected obstacles, requiring thoughtful navigation. It occurred to me that if I had been walking with someone else, overcoming obstacles could have been easier. Even so, with careful balance, I kept moving ahead.

At times the trail almost disappeared, but then would reemerge, calling me onward.

Then there was this temptation. Two signs on the way:

One points to the designated Lower Falls Trail. The other says, “Easy connector back to the Lower Falls Trail.” What would the harm be? I’ve already come a long way and this promises to still allow me to reach the destination… with less effort.

A necessary journey, following the designated path… onward.

Across the bridge and on to a bit more rugged terrain. And then appeared this message of hope “Please stay on the marked trail to allow forest to grow.”








Focus and perseverance in the task at hand will provide an opportunity for growth. This growth will be a benefit for the future of all.

Having kept on the path, I come to the destination. Satisfied for now, yet weary.










Not a final destination, to be sure.

There is always further to go, but I have to build up my strength and endurance. To build a foundation for the on-going challenge. It isn’t one to face alone. We must bring others along so we can help each other through the more difficult places. Lending a hand, and taking one when I struggle or falter.

So for now, I circle back down – finding a wider, more inviting road to lead me back down. Through the Wildflowers, seeing the possibility of beauty, if we take the time to do the hard things.









Our capacity to create a space for change begins with our own work.

A necessary journey.

Avoiding the temptation to return to what is familiar and easy.

Staying focused on the goal, and building up strength along the way.

Finding intermediate destinations, and continuing to build strength for the longer journey.

Circling back to gather others, and bring them on the journey – a journey for a hoped for future, where denial of these realities of racial inequity and hatred are not accepted. Where we begin to embody a true commitment to repairing the breach, restoring the person-hood of people of color, and correct the systems and structures that have stood too long as a barrier to so many.

It is a long journey. A necessary journey. Walk with me.



3 Responses to “A Necessary Journey”

  1. L W Robinson said

    We have another mountain-climbing priest! Thank you for this.
    I think the most beautiful short story I’ve ever read (and taught) is James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues,” greatly informed by Baldwin’s experience as a boy preacher as well as his blackness. It reaches deep into the heart and mind and soul.

  2. […] Text of last year’s reflection here […]

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