Listen: Sheridan Voysey chats to Katrina Roe
When you leave behind everything you know and move across the world, with no job, friends or home to serve as a landing pad, you can end up feeling a little lost. Or even a lot lost.
That was the case for Sheridan Voysey (above), who’d lost his dream of starting a family, and had moved with his wife to the UK, leaving behind a dream career. The upheaval left him without a sense of direction, and caused him to wonder about his very identity and purpose.
And so, he went on a pilgrimage. A big one. With his best mate DJ, he took an eight-day, 230 kilometre walk, with the idea of talking to God along the way, and trying to find some answers. This epic walk followed in the footsteps of Cuthbert: a compassionate, world-changing, conservationist monk who changed the face of Britain in the 1st century CE.
It was a walk that taught Sheridan some big life lessons, which now form the basis of his latest book (pictured): The Making of Us – Who We Can Become When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned.
Speaking to Hope Mornings presenter Katrina Roe, Sheridan said he believes his need for a sense of identity and purpose is something we all experience as humans.
“Everybody has that essential need to have a reason to get up in the morning,” he said. “We are not… like puppy dogs, you know, very happy just to wander around the house, and eat our food, and go for the occasional walk and sniff a few trees. We actually have to have some sort of reason, some sort of purpose to get up in the morning.”
Many of us find our purpose in things such as family or work – but what do we do when those things fail us? For Sheridan, being career-driven had left him feeling empty.
“I was really seeking for a bigger sense of self, a deeper sense of calling, something that is broader and bigger, something that incorporates not just the thing that you do for a job or a career, but actually incorporates every relationship that you have, that incorporates the whole universe, the world.”
Our Trails, While Painful, Can Lead to Great Purpose
On his walk Sheridan learnt lessons such as the value of friendship, the value God can bring out of our weaknesses and struggles, and how our path through life doesn’t need to look like a neat, straight line.
“It has been a real eye-opener for me to look back at some of the great people that have really left a mark on the world,” he said. “You see this little ‘formula’ that is at play – and it’s that their talent is married to their trial, and their trial is married to their talent. And you bring those two together and you get some wonderful things happen.”
“The deepest trial you go through, combined with your God-given talent, could actually be the very thing God uses to bring your greatest contribution into the world.”
Sheridan points to great artists like Degas, Renoir and Matisse, who made some of their best works out of times of suffering, as well as Christian identities like Joni Eareckson-Tada – who turned her quadriplegia into an opportunity to help others with disabilities.
“The deepest trial that you go through, combined with your God-given talent, could actually be the very thing that God uses to bring your greatest contribution into the world,” he said.
Learning Rest and Contentment
Two other great lessons Sheridan learnt on his pilgrimage, were the importance of rest (something he wasn’t so good at), and the tyranny of comparison.
“I would look back at my life and see probably about three mini-burnout seasons, and they’ve all come from me feeling that I should be somebody else, that I should be stronger, better, more spiritual, more successful, as good as the other people that I’m looking at and I’m being inspired by,” he said.
To avoid burning out in future, Sheridan now makes sure he takes at least 15 minutes every morning and afternoon, to sit in solitude and be “present with God” – as well as a day of “retreat” a few times each year.
How to Take a One-Day Pilgrimage
While an eight-day walk takes a lot of preparation, a pilgrimage or prayer-walk can be as short as a day. Sheridan suggests the following steps:
- Clear a day in your diary with no appointments or commitments.
- Choose a walk of about 10 or 15 kilometres – perhaps taking public transport to get to your starting place, or to get back home.
- Prepare for your walk by packing snacks and water, a journal and pen, a Bible if you wish, and wearing comfortable shoes and clothes.
- Before the walk, read something from the Bible such as a Psalm, and dedicate the day to God in prayer.
- Take your ‘walk with God’, be observant of your surroundings, and pray as you go. “You’ll find that your senses become open to the wonderful sounds that you’re hearing around you, the birds and the sights that you’re seeing. Even something as simple as swaying tree can become quite beautiful,” Sheridan says. “You start to see the presence of God in everything.”
- When you arrive at your destination, it’s time to journal. Sit down in a park, or a café, or a quiet setting, and write about the creative ideas and thoughts you’ve had along your walk, the actions you now want to take, and the things you’ve sensed God is saying to you.