Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Thou does guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward Thou wilt receive me to glory. Psalm 73: 24
In many of my reflections, I have written about activities we do at summer camp. One of the best ways to learn is through experience, and at summer camp, one of the favorite activities of the campers is the ropes course, where they tackle obstacles that teach teamwork and trust. Some of them force participants outside of their comfort zones. From a teaching perspective, these activities lend themselves to helping participants relate to concepts in the Christian life. That’s why we do them. And that’s one of the reasons I write about them.
One of the ropes course activities we do is called a “trust walk.” In a trust walk, people are paired together, sometimes with a partner they don’t know well or at all. One of the pair is blindfolded. The participants then go for a walk around the ropes course, sometimes tackling obstacles they can’t see, and walking places they haven’t been. Usually, the participants are told not to talk, for the partner who cannot see to follow, and for the partner who can see, to lead carefully but quietly. The blindfolded partner is not told exactly where they are going or how long this activity will last.
I have done this activity many times, and have done both roles. The lesson of this activity is NOT that faith is a blind trust in God. Far from it. The lesson for the person guiding is to take care of the person who cannot see, and by extension, that we are supposed to take care of one another, especially those among us who are struggling or are compromised in any manner—sick, hungry, lonely, lack confidence, etc.
It is the lessons of the person who cannot see that I want to talk about today. Put yourself, if you can imagine, in the shoes of this person. You are blindfolded. You are being led by someone you don’t know well, through a place you don’t know well, perhaps over ground you’ve never walked on. You don’t know what obstacles you will encounter along the way. You don’t know how long the activity will last. And you aren’t allowed to speak. The activity is of course voluntary. You chose to come to summer camp. And even though you may not have chosen this activity, you are doing the walking. No one is carrying you. So, you undoubtedly wonder:
Will I get hurt doing this?
How long will this last?
Where will it end?
Should I be worried?
These are natural questions. On some level though, there has to be some comfort. Going to the example of summer camp, on some level, each blindfolded participant must think:
- Others have done this successfully. So can I.
- There are people who are supervising this. They will make sure it’s not too dangerous and I don’t get really hurt.
- It will end at some point, whether it’s five minutes or ten minutes or thirty minutes. This won’t last forever.
So then, the blindfolded participant decides to just go along with the program, and walk, unsure of where they are going but sure that they will get there safely. The most important part of this exercise is the decision to walk, one foot in front of the other, accepting that you don’t know everything that is going to happen, but you trust in the end it will be alright. If you’ve never experienced this kind of activity, you can do it with a family member around your house or yard or neighborhood. You’ll actually find that the easier role is the person who can’t see!
I mentioned in yesterday’s reflection, that this is one of those times when we have to rely on faith, that God is guiding our steps, even though we can’t see where we are going. It is as if we are the blindfolded person and God is our partner. Just because the activity is done in silence does not mean that anyone is ever alone, or that God is absent. We are certainly not alone when we are walking with God. Even when we don’t speak and even when it feels like He isn’t speaking either. We correctly wonder when is this all going to end, how is it all going to end, will we get hurt, etc. But just like the participants at summer camp, we have to think:
- Others have done this successfully, so can I. In other words, other generations have gone through plagues, wars, oppression, recession, etc. They’ve made it. So can we.
- This won’t last forever. It might be another five months or another five weeks, we don’t know. But it won’t last forever. Even if life is never the same, it still won’t last forever.
- The destination is known—it is heaven. The path there is unknown. How long it is, what challenges will be encountered. These are unknown. It is possible to get hurt on this journey. It is even possible to die. Just ask the families of covid-19 patients who have died. And ask the martyrs who for centuries have died, not in plague but in persecution. In the “end” it will be alright. That end might be everyone’s restoration to health. Or that end might be the Kingdom of God, sooner than we thought. The end goal is always the kingdom of God. At some point in every life, we will close our eyes for the final time and trust that when we open them again, we will be standing before God in His Kingdom. The current pandemic just highlights that this could come sooner than later. And even if it comes much later, that there will be many bumps in the road along the way.
Referring now to today’s verse from Psalm 73:24, we need to allow God to guide us, and to trust Him, even when we cannot see where we are going, even when the path is long, treacherous and even painful. Because at the end of the road, however long and painful it may be, we know that He will receive us in glory. The key to the trust walk for the person who can’t see is to keep walking. The key for each of us, who can’t see how the events of this year will end, is to keep walking, and to keep walking with God, in a Godly, upright and Christian manner. Even if you don’t know where the path is going or why, just keep walking and keep walking with God.
Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart. . .I am continually with Thee, Thou dost hold my right hand. . .Thou dost guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward Thou wilt receive me to glory. . .My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.. . .For me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge. Psalm 73: 1, 23-24, 26, 28
Walk with God today. Regardless of where the path goes, keep on walking.
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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