"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"
But this journey begins, not with a step, but with a desire. The desire, quite simply, for God. Not for a mystical force or energy. Not for self-realisation, self-justification, or anything whatever related to the self. But for a person who is other than oneself and uniquely desirable, because uniquely the source of everything that makes a human life worthwhile.
True desire, sooner or later, will lead to encounter. The living God does not wait passively to be found, like a child playing hide-and-seek. No, the God who is objectively existent will choose to draw near to those in whom true desire has been awakened. However long it takes, however many false starts are needed, in the end there will be a meeting between two persons.
The encounter may be no more than that: a brief moment that occurs and then is forgotten. Or it may go further. There may be more than one encounter. There may be a growing awareness in the seeker that encounter alone is not enough. At some point, a decision is made and a line is crossed: the two persons have come into an ongoing relationship.
This is the death of autonomy for the spiritual seeker. No longer is the self paramount. Now the Other takes precedence in all choices. And yet this is a willing subordination, a joyful deference to the One who is now the source of all fulfilment. Over time, perhaps a long time, a beautiful and rare thing develops: a relationship between non-equals that is not abusive but nurturing. A relationship of mutual commitment. A relationship of love.
There will be consequences. A mortal creature cannot long interact with the living God without being changed: and changed in a way that no self-help system on earth can achieve. Little by little, over long years and with many a backward step, the dross falls away and the joyful self within is raised up. Imperceptibly, self-protective habits of thought and action are eased off, and the heart becomes more free to relate as a whole being.
Courage is needed, and persistence, and an unyielding commitment to a daily relationship with the One who alone can transform the human heart. The kind of courage and commitment that even the most fearful can show: because this courage is birthed not in self-improvement, nor in self-regard, but in self-forgetful love for the Other.