[Note: Today is day 9 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series. Please remember: the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed. The goal is respectful articulation.]
I’ve started hiking a nearby trail, running some with my daughter (the things we’ll do for our offspring like no one else!) increasing distance & endurance daily, decreasing our time per mile. The trail we use has become familiar ~ the same stones to traverse the creek, the same logs across the trail to hurdle… but inevitably, daily there are the fallen sticks that somehow newly appear in my path. As I speed along the route, I kick some aside. For others I must slow and bend to grab and toss them aside. Once in awhile they’re large enough that two of us have to work together to move, and occasionally there’s something new fallen, big enough that we just decide to climb over or step around, creating an alternate route in the trail. I think of the significance of these as I hike… when do we choose to clear the existing trail… and when we create an alternate route, while clearing the path for the younger ones behind… letting them see that process, while enlisting my child’s help. Eventually they may go before me and make my path level, as I have begun with parents having a less steady gait, now into their eighties, as well as for the generation to come.
At the same time, I’ve been reading philosophy. Plato envisioned all we see as shadows of some real patterns being cast by a fire outside a cave where we are bound. I see some truth in what he imagined. There must be a plan, a pattern, an ideal intended for us to recognize and rise to embrace something higher, more solid, more eternal, and real yet than this world.
As I kick branches from the trail, gaining agility and grace, making it almost like a dance step while trying to keep up my speed, I maintain the path worn here by others before me, sometimes making detours, trying my best to secure it for those that will follow. I ponder the bigger picture: who cleared this trail in the beginning? Who is it that I trust, who decided this route best? Am I sure this turn is the best choice…?
I’ve made missteps. I’ve slipped on wet ground and prayed a thankful landing without injury. I’ve lost my balance trying not to slow while hurdling a series of fallen logs and tumbled brush, losing some skin and blood (and having to return for gear that flew off unnoticed while I focused on examining my injury.) In all, I trust an unseen (but real) presence there to thank and call out for help, to one who knows and sees and cares and has a plan that works it all for my good. Without that, continuing this trail would be rather pointless.
I meditate on the choices and conflicts in the world today. The differing paths that have woven through history and now shape our current perspectives, traditions, and decision-making — personal and political. As I heard Eric Metaxas, at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, “Thank God that we now argue over how to help the poor, not whether to.” Progress over the centuries? Yes! Now what? Among all the questions for our world and nation, how do we cease the arguing and progress in peace?
I consider the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the USA, as it relates to my belief in God who loves all nations, tribes and tongues of people equally, and exists in holiness beyond what can be attained by a human nation, whether or not we claim or agree to be “one nation under God”. As much as we may want to offer “liberty & justice for all,” we know that only God will ever be able to fully do it. I feel compelled to maintain my allegiance alone for him, and thus, to serve the world he’s put me in out of that undivided allegiance.
I am grieved by the political/spiritual battle around the issue of marriage. As I heard one admit recently, haven’t we already allowed the biblical definition of marriage in our country to go by the wayside years ago? … by legalizing “no fault divorce,” among other impurities? When we talk of the parameters of biblical marriage, I fear most of us have missed what it is — and could yet be a most beautiful reflection of the faithful, relational nature of God. Am I — are we — willing to confront the “plank in our own eye” before humbly reaching out to others with the authority of God’s love?
Only one thing I know for sure. There is one who said, “I am the way…” What authority did he have to claim that? How can we know he is trustworthy to believe? Big questions, for sure. Brief answers? His life claims were recorded hundreds of years before he appeared. He lived a life of complete integrity. Instead of dying off quietly, his followers were themselves willing to die while continuing to proclaim his truth, assured there was more beyond their death here. They said this was the Creator of the world and that he had come to exhibit the very definition of love.
How do I know what words to speak that will last? …what decisions to make in the myriad of choices in life? …which route to take and who to call when I see I’ve mis-stepped? How do I come to peace in my relationships and in the world at large? I have to believe that the one who made me, beginning with the mathematically amazing, statistically unbelievable universe we live in, knows. The one who was willing to die for me, I believe I can trust to work all things for my good.
The trail starts and ends with him. And in between, He continues to be the way…
… If my people will humble themselves and pray… and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways… then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
[Intramuralist Note: REH and I became friends as kids at camp a couple decades ago; she has since earned an MA in counseling… and continues to spur me — and many — on.]