"I Want to Be in Jerusalem": More from Walter Hilton

I’m very much enjoying David Jeffrey’s edition of Walter Hilton‘s 14C spiritual writings. Today I came across this parable and wanted you to hear it, too:

There was once a man who wanted to go to Jerusalem. Because he did not know the way himself, he went to another man he expected would know the way, and asked him how he should proceed to come to that city. The other man said to him that he could not hope to get there without great difficulties and much travail, because the way was long and imperiled by hordes of thieves and robbers, as well as many other hindrances such as can beset a traveler. And there was a great diversity of routes, so it seemed, leading there, along which people were killed and despoiled every day, and prevented from coming to their coveted destination. Nevertheless, one sure way existed. Whoever would take that road and keep to it, the man guaranteed that he would come to the city of Jerusalem, and never lose his life through murder or peril along the way. True, it was likely that he would be robbed and beaten a number of times, and suffer much distress in the going, but he would keep his life safe.

The pilgrim then said: “If I can really preserve my life safely so as to come to the place I covet, I do not care what mischief I will have to suffer en route. Therefore say to me what you will and truly I will endeavour to do as you say.”

The other man answered him and said: “Lo, I set you upon the right way. This is the way, that you keep the counsel that I am about to offer you. Whatever you hear or see or experience that threatens to block your way, do not linger with it of your own will, or tarry at rest hoping it will go away. Do not consider it, take any pleasure in it, or fear it. Rather, press ever onward in your journey, and remember that you want to be in Jerusalem. For that is what you desire, and nothing else but that.

“If someone robs and vandalizes you, beats you, scorns you, or despises you, do not struggle against these things if you want to keep your life. Rather, compose yourself, come to terms with the harm you have endured, and go forth as if nothing had happened, so that you suffer no additional hurt.

“And also, if people want to delay you with tales and feed you with falsehoods, attempting to draw you into mirth and so cause you to abandon your pilgrimage, turn to them a deaf ear, and answer not again. Say nothing else except that you want to be in Jerusalem.

“And if people offer you gifts and strive to make you rich with worldly goods, pay no attention to them. Think always on Jerusalem.

“And if you will keep to this way and do as I have said, I guarantee your life, that you shall not be slain but come to the place of your desire.”

Each life place has its promises and perils. Each life situation has its particular temptations and trials of distraction or discouragement. Satan does not care how we get off the path, only that we get off it. And whether you believe in Satan or not, the point is the same: I am either proceeding, step by faithful step, toward God’s goal for me, or I am not. It doesn’t matter how I am not, just that I am not.

Good day to you, fellow pilgrim! And thanks, Brothers Hilton and Jeffrey, for these good words along the Way.

6 Responses to “"I Want to Be in Jerusalem": More from Walter Hilton”

  1. scatteredgraces

    Thank you for sharing this parable. I am finding the “waiting” of Advent and the waiting of this bed rest (with 16 weeks to go) and the anticipation of “the coming joy” and the metaphorical aspect of Waiting for Jesus and for the New Jerusalem. The hardships ARE worth it when we see things with the heavenly perspective of celebrating WITH THE KING!

  2. Daniel Ginn

    I needed that. Thanks, John. Oh, how I needed to here that. Thank you so very much. Not sure exactly what my Jerusalem is nor what it looks like nor the substances of its composition, but I have been delayed and deterred on the path for much of my life. Praying to get going again and become a pilgrim of purified purpose. Thank you, and please pray for me, too.

  3. Daniel Ginn

    And I misspelled “hear.” Shameful for an English major. Ah well, life goes on.

  4. Jeff P.

    “If someone robs and vandalizes you, beats you, scorns you, or despises you, do not struggle against these things if you want to keep your life. Rather, compose yourself, come to terms with the harm you have endured, and go forth as if nothing had happened, so that you suffer no additional hurt.

    Thank you for continuing to put yourself out into the world of ideas, John. I do appreciate reading your blog. I did feel myself pull away from the second sentence in the above cited quote, though. Perhaps Hilton is suggesting we deal with our past when he writes that one “come to terms with the harm you have endured,” but when he follows by suggesting we go forth as if nothing had happened, it feels to me as though he is suggesting stuffing our hurts, which only eventually create additional hurt. Thoughts?

    • John Stackhouse

      I share your reservation, Brother Jeff. Hilton isn’t a psychotherapist, of course, and we can learn from that discipline as well as from his, which is spiritual direction.

      Still, he does say “come to terms with it” before you attempt to move on. And I think he means for us to then go on in hope and health, without constantly revisiting what happened and thereby letting yourself be repeatedly and endlessly re-victimized by it.

      So maybe he knows more psychology than he lets on! 😉

  5. Jeff P.

    Indeed he may know much more about psychology than can deduced from this excerpt. Still, I don’t think coming to terms with our hurts and moving on in healing is the same as moving on as if nothing has ever happened. I do hear that’s not how your explaining Hilton, but it is how I’ve understood him here. Regardless, Hilton and you both bring up a very important point that without living an examined life one can revisit past hurts allowing themselves to be continually re-vicitimized.

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