This time last week I traveled to England for my cousin Linda's funeral and memorial service. A variety of circumstances prevented me from writing blog posts in "real time" about the trip, so I'm going to fold in a few stories over the next few days as I ease back into our ongoing journey through the season of Lent.
My time in England really was a pilgrimage in every sense of the word:
It's been over a decade since I last spent any time in my former home, and 18 years since I had visited with many of my cousins. So I found myself listening, observing and asking questions. My six and a half days on British soil wasn't sight-seeing so much as a people-connecting. I was emotionally drained and spiritually satisfied all at the same time.
So I was intrigued today when this Jesus quote from John 16 popped up in the outline I had prepared ahead of time for this study: Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: (The entire passage is copied at the end of today's post).
One of the hardest yet most wonderful things about the reason behind my UK visit was/is the difficult truth that Linda's death is already being translated into faith and healing and hope for so many people who already loved her... as well as those who only came into the circle of her influence via her illness and eventual passing.
So I arrived in England last Friday morning, picked up the cheapest car available, and spent most of the day reacquainting myself with the healing effects of blustery, near-freezing walks on the hilltops (see the pictures with today's post). It was as if the fresh air blew out everything that might have been in the way of my being an empty, open, willing vessel, and all I needed to do at that point was remain open to how God would want to use me.
Consequently I had the energy - even though I was missing the previous night's sleep - to stay up late that evening and talk and listen when I stayed at the home of Linda's brother Graham. (He made me cappuccino, which helped a lot!) Graham shared pictures and home movies and stories from their time as young missionary children in Africa, and talked about how hard their mother's death had been (cancer, also) when they (Peter, Graham, Linda and Alison) were between the ages of ten and four.
An important truth came home to me that evening. Listening is possibly the most important gift we can give to people we love. It set the tone for the week.
So I was exhilarated by the fresh English winter air, but also by the sense that God didn't want me in England as a spectator at a memorial, but as an active participant in the ongoing work of healing and grace. I went to sleep that night with some of the splendid scenery as a backdrop in my mind - peace and purpose for the days ahead. My pilgrimage has begun!
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned (I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now).