Treading Borderlands

People from four countries made their way to a Michaelmas Retreat on Borderland Spirituality at our Holy Island Retreat House. By some divine synchronicity this co-incided with my imminent move to a new house at Berwick Upon Tweed which is on the border between England and Scotland.

We explored borders between places of conflict, between seasons of life, and between heaven and earth. We explored liminal experiences of Celtic saints who went to the edges of a place or of self-giving. When they reached the limits of where they had to be or what they had to give ‘the other side’ filled the gap.

With seasons of life the borderland can be a twilight space between the summer and autumn of life, but it can also be the space between a young, macho go-getter in the spring of life who speeds to the top of a ladder and a minute later falls flat on the ground.

We entered into the journey that begins when this world starts to fade away and the next world draws near. We learned how even a debilitating medical weakness can be turned into a pilgrimage. We imagined a Departure Lounge at an airport and decided what parlours and people and symbols we would like around us as we traverse the final borderland. We accompanied a soul through what the Orthodox call The Great Passage. C.S. Lewis, at the end of his Narnia stories, likened the end of life to ‘Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before’.

We also explored angel experiences – visions of angels that healed a young man’s knee, chose a candidate for king, averted the plague, converted a pagan ruler, restored a marriage, averted a fatal car accident and so on. Columba said 'How wonderful that God gives such help through his angels, even when much land and sea lies between.’

What can we learn from these rich experiences? Go to the edge. Let go of the past. Embrace the Love that beckons, the love that delights to bring deep transformation to us in the soil of brokenness and vulnerability. And heed these words that Tjitske Bongers sent someone: 'I walk, therefore I am. I am, therefore I walk.' Keep walking.

Posted at 11:32am on 4th October 2016
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