There's nothing like being told that a particular metaphor is tired and worn to make you suddenly realize that you see it everywhere. Particularly in songs.
So on the day before Ash Wednesday I was flipping through the hymnal, looking for something to sing at our Wednesday Matins service. First there was "Let us Ever Walk With Jesus." Then "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me." Then I couldn't help thinking about "Go to Dark Gethsemane" and "Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley" (though that particular one is not in our hymnal). We sang "Amazing Grace" at a funeral on Saturday, and I remembered the verse that ends "And grace will lead me home."
A colleague of mine recently wrote an article that admonished us pastors that we have over-used the metaphor "Lenten Journey", and it is time for a break. A long break, perhaps. It is time to consider some other metaphors: struggle, training, self-examination; light and darkness, water and wilderness.
But there's nothing like being told a particular metaphor is tired and worn to make you suddenly realize that you see it everywhere. In songs, for example. And not just hymns. There are all those great train songs, like "City of New Orleans", and there are those World War II songs, like "I'll Be Seeing You" (okay, it's not really about a journey, but it is, in a way -- the journey home, whether real or in a dream). And then there are those immigrant songs -- my sister and I used to sing an old Swedish song that my grandmother loved, called "Greet Those at Home." It was supposed to be sung by a sailor standing on the deck of a ship, leaving for the promised land, America.
There's a journey for you.
Then there are the sub-sets of the 'journey' metaphor: getting lost, for example. What is it like to journey, and to get lost? What is it like to read the maps and look up and realize you are in an unknown country where you don't speak the language and you don't know the customs? Another subset of journey metaphors is deciding what to pack and what not to pack. What do you carry? What do you leave behind? One of the things I actually like about traveling is deciding what is most important, what I really need. It's not the journey metaphor exactly, but it is.
I'm not actually convinced that 'Lenten journey' is so tired. But what it needs is less generality -- more specificity. The Lenten journey needs to be the 296 footpath from Duluth to the Canadian border, or perhaps the road trips with the kids, where they whined in the back seat and said "We'll NEVER make it to Grandmas." The Lenten journey needs to be the one where you mis-read the map, or the GPS told you the wrong thing, and you found yourself out in the middle of nowhere. Or the Lenten journey needs to be the journey where you could only take ten things. Or the Lenten journey is the journey by boat to an unknown country, the promised land, the one our parents or grandparents took, but we don't know anything about.
There's nothing like being told that a particular metaphor is tired and worn to make you start seeing it everywhere: on walks with the dog, where we just go to the end of the block and back home, on trips to the hospital, to hold people's hands and pray, in the wilderness, on the boat that carried us to the new world.
I'm not actually convinced that "Lenten journey' is so tired. But the real question is this: whose Lenten Journey is it, anyway?
That is the question.