My high school orchestra director, Mrs. Wilcox, gave me a memorable musical phrase some 30 years ago. Trying to show one of the students in our group how to fearlessly bring out her part, she loudly sang the notes: “Yes! I am here; I have arrived!”
Mrs. Wilcox’s willingness to be goofy, along with the words and music of that moment, has stuck with me all these years. The sentiment, of “having arrived,” though, while we are still living here on earth, runs in stark contrast to growth in the spiritual life.
We have wonderful moments of “arrival” in our faith: encounters with the living God through the sacraments, holy people, moving concepts, times of conversion.
However, it can be tempting to think that these moments of arrival mean “having arrived.”
Maybe we’re in a place where everything feels repetitive, or when we’ve kept steady in keeping the precepts of the faith while surrounded by others who seem disinterested; it can seem like there’s nothing more to learn.
It can also feel like we’ve arrived when God first opens a new door in our faith: maybe we’ve encountered a winning personality that explains the faith really well, we’ve felt more alive in our faith through an event, group, or movement, or we’ve had a strong moment of conversion.
Or, maybe we have just surrounded ourselves with friends and family who reinforce and seldom challenge our approach to the faith, bolstering our confidence and pride that we have arrived in understanding how to practice the faith.
I like how Charles Peguy, in his work The Portal of the Mystery of Hope, says:
. . . what matters
Is not to go here or there, is not to go someplace
To arrive someplace
Some earthly place. What matters is to go, always to go, and (on the contrary)
not to arrive.
As we learn and grow and practice our faith, Jesus can lead us to see, “Yes! I am here,” but we will wait until he says, hopefully one day, “You have arrived.”