Step by Step

By Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald  •  May 12, 2022

One step at a time.

One of my favorite authors is Kathleen Norris. I first became acquainted with her and her writing in The Cloister Walk, but soon moved to read her other books. In pastoral ministry Amazing Grace was often on my desk. A collection of essays on topics related to religion and spiritual life, this book often inspired my own writing. So, it is no surprise that when writer’s block rose up this week, I turned to my old friend for help. And Norris provided me with the most important reminder of my sacred journey in life to ministry and in God’s companionship.

. . .scripture. . .keeps drawing me back to the process of lectio and allows me to enjoy the surprising God I find there, God as ultimate, inexhaustible poet, giving me in mere words much more than I could have imagined. For many years I never looked at a Bible; now I find that it sustains me in ways no poem or novel could. I find no easy answers in the Bible, but only a holy simplicity. (Amazing Grace, 282)

 

And so, I went to scripture.

Put one foot in front of the other.

Lectio Divina is a way of reading (scripture usually, but reading any text) whereby a reader engages the words with repetition, digesting small phrases, letting both words and silence enter our hearts. Lectio can be a sacred journey to understanding or clarity or peace.

For the past few days I’ve been reading and re-reading this passage:

20Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ (Isaiah 30:20-21)

 

These words sent me to seminary 20 years ago. “This is the way; walk in it.” Simple words, but a sacred journey is never simple. Step by step; in spite of what stands in the way. Isaiah’s ancient words are part of a longer passage of alternating declarations of God’s judgment and God’s promises. Even if the tastes of adversity and affliction are bitter, God’s promises stand firm. The voice of instruction and guidance is still whispering encouragement.

Writer’s block rose up this week, but the sacred journey of my life was recalculated by the GPS that guides me in so many ways. I was drawn back to scripture and to the words I have depended on so many times. In these days of overwhelming news from Ukraine; when our own political rhetoric seems loud and smug; when our friends and family grieve and suffer illness; when adversity and affliction sap our energy—in each of these days there is a word from our teacher. “This is the way; walk in it.” The voice might be quiet. We may need to turn our heads to really hear it. We might be walking or wandering or lost, but the way is before us.

I can sense that my own life journey is moving into a new season. There will be a new way, I think. The voice is whispering a new path. There is adversity and affliction, uncertainty and anticipation. But my teacher is there affirming the way in front of me. Step by step.

About the Author

Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald

Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald served in parish ministry for nine years before being called into conference ministry as Area Minister for the Grand West Association in Michigan. She has served on the community board for Pilgrim Manor, a United Church Homes community in Grand Rapids. Ruth has two grown children and one precious grandson. Hiking, knitting, and reading fill her “spare” time.

View all articles by Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald