My dear friends:

I recently rediscovered a quotation I had noted down in my common place book a number of years ago. Coming upon it the other day was like being reunited with an old familiar friend: the true pilgrim who has found the way says in his thankful heart, I will run when I can, when I cannot run I will go, and when I cannot go I will creep.[1]

I found it originally while reading the writings of Father George Congreve SSJE, an early member of our community, and a companion of Father Benson. At the time, I was getting ready to walk the St. Cuthbert’s Way, a long-distance walking path in Britain. I took the words literally. During my walk of 65 miles over the course of a week that summer, I often reminded myself that I did not have to go faster than I was able to at any given moment. Walking some of the hills, I would tell myself, all I needed to do was to take the next step, and then to rest. It did not matter that someone who passed me twenty minutes before, was already at the top, and out of sight. All I needed to do was to take the next step, or in Father Congreve’s words, to creep. I did a lot of creeping that week, and in the end, I managed to walk the entire route from Melrose, Scotland to Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, on the east coast of England. Finally, at my destination and sitting on the rocks of Holy Island looking out across the water to the mainland, I was amazed by what I had accomplished. There had been moments during the week when I could not imagine it was possible for me to walk another 40, or 30, or 20 miles. What I could imagine, was taking one more step. And so I did. And then another. And another. And another. That week was full of single steps.

Not having a clear sense of what the future holds is unsettling for many of us. We don’t know when all the restrictions will be lifted, or whether or not they will be put back into place. We can’t imagine living as we have done for another four, or three, or two months, with requirements to physically distance from family, friends, and colleagues. We can barely imagine life in a day, never mind a month.

But like me, sitting on the rocks that day reflecting on what I had just accomplished, we can all be filled with both amazement and courage: amazement at what we have done, and courage simply to take the next step on this particular path.

It is true that life is full of challenge at the moment, and we may not feel up to the challenge. If that is the case for you, perhaps God’s invitation right now, is not to surmount the challenge, but simply to take one single step, or in Father Congreve’s words, to creep, and then as I did climbing those hills, to rest.

However it is that you are facing the challenges of these days, even if you are creeping through them one step, one moment at a time, remember that as you creep, you are not alone. The One who promised to be with us, even to the end of the age,[2] is with us still, whether we are running, or going, or creeping.

This week, as you creep along, look back with amazement at what you have managed, and look forward with courage, knowing that Jesus is with you, even in your creeping.

Your fellow pilgrim on the way,
James SSJE


[1] Father George Congreve SSJE 1835 – 1918

[2] Matthew 28:20

7 Comments

  1. Patricia Betts on October 31, 2020 at 06:30

    So simple yet so helpful advice for meeting all life’s challenges.

    Thank you.

  2. Bill on August 9, 2020 at 23:35

    Perfect reminder for this time and the physical, mental, and emotional challenges we are facing. I will creep along, one step at a time, caring for my own heart and trying to help others.

  3. Margaret King on August 9, 2020 at 15:09

    Thank you so much for this meditation. I am definitely “creeping” right now. It is helpful to be reminded that Jesus is with me even when I’m creeping.

  4. Carole Fielding on August 9, 2020 at 10:56

    Thank you Brother James for such encouraging words!

  5. Janet on August 8, 2020 at 21:14

    Thank you for this today.

  6. Chris Leach on August 8, 2020 at 19:57

    Thank you for these words! I have a friend who always says when life gets challenging, disturbing, confusing, scary, to just do the next right thing. This goes right along with your statement “simply to take the next step on this particular path.” This pandemic is not ours to solve or figure out on our own alone. God is indeed with us and promises to never leave us. Staying focused on Him, tuning my ears to hear Him, and continuing to move- whether it be running, going or creeping- is the way forward.

  7. Lee Graham on August 8, 2020 at 15:40

    This reminds me of Isaiah 40:31 which says, “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
    First we soar, then we run, then we walk . . . then we creep. Life is like that. Another more recent saying is from the movie, “Finding Nemo” which came out in 2003, in which Dory, a forgetful blue fish, taught us, in the face of adversity, to “just keep swimming.” Hurricane Isaias on top of Covid 19 certainly reinforced this frame of mind for us living in NC on the coast. God bless SSJE for helping me keep my focus during difficult days.

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