The Progression of the Pilgrim
Blood on the Rocks
“What’s that?” I thought.
It seemed significant-somehow.
It must be important because everyone, mostly, just ignored it.
And with that thought came the realization of my shallowness and ignorance because in that thought was the sum total of my wisdom and all that I had learned in thirty summers.
All I knew was that nobody knew-least of all and especially me.
Don’t be hasty with comforting words of humility or virtue. Humility is not angry nor is virtue quick to judgment. I was both. Angry at “the man” who, in his not knowing, pressed me to conform. Judging the nonconformist for thinking anybody cared who wasn’t inconvenienced. Ignorant for thinking this was the true and best human condition-enlightenment in isolation, safety in apathy. Impossible.
Understanding this I looked at it again. I knew, simply because I am a man who knows things, that this was a little more than another mile marker or unremarkable exit ramp on my life’s highway-more than a little trip inside the big trip.
But it was just some dried, faded blood on a pile of pumpkin sized rocks. The blood was imperceptible except in just the right light. You know that light if you’re a pilgrim. It’s like the amber-purple twilight that precedes a red sky morning warning all that could see and take heed of the coming danger. You know that light if you can hear this. It’s like the last light of clarity cutting through the confusion felt as you trip into the valley ruled over by death’s shadow. As this light is cast on the hard, fallow, and unforgiving earth the pilgrim perceives the blood on the rocks.
I contemplated all this in my own special blend of wry, sullen detachment.
Then a woman stood where before there was no one. I asked her about these rocks and this blood because she knew. She said “I was you before we died. Stop your seeking. Truth out of time is loveless and cold comfort. Knowledge without context is amplified deception.” Then she left the same way she came.
A man came. I watched him approach, his shadow long in the fading light. I asked him about the rocks and told him about the women because he knew. He said “I was you, long ago before I died. A friend of mine once wrote that if any man thought he knew something he did not yet know as he ought.” He reached in a pouch hanging from his belt and handed me a small mirror. At the top of the mirror stenciled on the glass in the fashion of a shopping mall directory were the words “You are here.” The man told me to look at the other side of the mirror. This side of the mirror, as opposed to the others ordinary appearance, was so brilliantly polished it seemed to reflect back the whole of creation in its vastness and intricacy simultaneously. As I looked at the expression on my face I noticed the words “Your journey ends here” beautifully etched at the bottom of the mirrors silver frame. I looked up only to see the man’s tall shadow accompanying him along a straight, narrow path that led east away from these rocks that now seemed to dominate the landscape.
Then the shift took place.
It felt like it did when I talked to God.
I was just sitting there in a new moons light.
From the stack of blood crusted rocks
To the mirror
Then I heard the question.
“What good thing is in you?”
If I didn’t know the answer to anything else I knew that I knew the answer to that. The only good thing in me is, possibly, my intentions-but who is able to know their own heart so intimately? And surely, whether pure or jaded, my intentions had paved the road to my own personal hell. I hoped no one had followed me to theirs. Then I heard the second question.
Who do you say that I am? Imagination? Collective conscious? Enlightened ancestors? A spirit guide?
I looked at the blood on the rocks barely discernible in the color shifting sheen of a full springtime moon.
And I knew.
With this knowing came understanding.
I knew in times past I had trampled over these holy rocks and the grace they represented.
The love and patience.
He had touched me, was even now touching me.
In compassions light.
Compassion for the world and everyone in it.
Compassion for me.
Compassion for him.
In compassions light I saw the cross rising up from the blood splattered rocks. The blood, oh, the blood. It was flowing red and quick and free. The air was filled with the aroma of the slaughter, the groans of dying. The blood glistened on the rocks in the light of loves understanding. I gasped “You are the Christ, you are Jesus!”
His voice, Him, He, the I AM, the Eternal Word.
“Drink this cup, eat this bread, take up this cross, follow me.”
The groans of my dying joined with the groaning of Emanuel Upon the Tree. Dead to self. Dead to desire. Dead to grasping and striving. Resting in the Eternal Beloved. Rejoicing in the simplicity of it all. Resurrected to newness of Life. Enabled to serve in holiness and righteousness without fear reconciled to God and through his spirit all creation. Manifested as a son of God.
My journey began and ended there.
When I look in that silver framed mirror I see Jesus in me.
Somebody asked me the reason for my hope and joy yesterday.
I told them about the blood on the rocks and said “I was just like you before I died.”
David Saunders March 2002