I walked and prayed around the edges of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne whilst on retreat. I did this twice: Anticlockwise one day, then Clockwise another. Here are some ponderings on my first circumnavigation.
Walk 1, anticlockwise
As you can see from the plot of my route, tracked on my phone, this walk traced the outline of a dinosaur with ears. Despite appearances, I did not actually walk on water: this was carefully timed against the tides, but more on that later. I did a lot of singing and praying as I went, and a lot of simply enjoying the view.
Some reflections, then.
Signposts and warningsA signpost, too far away to read, but it’s clear that it is pointing where I want to go. It is not only through words that God speaks to us and directs us, and that was certainly true on this walk.An alien shape amid a natural landscape says DANGER to passing ships and helps them navigate. The Word of God does much the same: if we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Word Made Flesh, and let that other expression of God’s Word, the Bible, be our guide, our lives can avoid danger and we are then open to the Holy Spirit to be our navigator through life.
Weathered rocks tell an ancient story, and almost look like architectural remains of a lost civilization. Their beauty can be readily appreciated, but to understand how this landscape came to be takes scientific understanding, geological knowledge and the ability to see and imagine things beyond our limited, human timeframe and personal experience.
The Bible tells a story on a vast, eternal timescale, beyond even geological time. We need to make a similar leap of imagination to learn what God is up to, and how our lives and experiences fit in.
And then I walked out to sea…
…and performed an act of faith.
I had faith in the tide tables. I had faith in the information provided, and so, against what the map told me – that I was not on land – I walked out (about a third of a mile or so, I reckon) to meet the low tide.
Following Jesus is not reckless, akin to walking out towards the distant sea, not knowing whether the tide is on its way in or out. The experience of the Christian Faith over the centuries is that Jesus is to be relied upon: the basis of our faith being so secure gives us the strength to act in faith and crack on with God’s work. This is how we learn to flourish as humans: fulfilling God’s holy purposes for our lives.Looking at the map alone, you could be forgiven for thinking I was miraculously walking on water. As Jesus once pointed out to Peter, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and trust him if we really want to thrive in faith.
Back to natureSeeing the tide was now coming in, I hurried back towards the shore to avoid getting cut off on a sand bank (hence drawing the ‘ear’ of a dinosaur on my route plot!). I rounded the western tip of the island and then walked along the causeway road before finding a path into the dunes.
I paused to have some tomato soup, and found a derelict brick structure to sit on. I soon had company…
I was on a deer’s turf. I drank soup as it watched me and slowly walked around me. I did not belong there and was making the deer uncomfortable, so I slowly walked on.
It was a magical encounter.
I walked on back to the Crown and Anchor for a refreshing pint of something local, full of visions of peace, and the experience of natural beauty.
I pondered Psalm 19 over a pint, a psalm whose last verse I usually use as a prayer before I preach. That psalm reminds us that the wonders of the natural world speak of God, as does the Word of God – that is, scripture. If our hearts and minds are set on God, we navigate life as we should in a way which leads us to flourish.