Do you see what this means - all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running - and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews12:1-3, The Message)
I started the first collection of thoughts I titled "The Crooked Path" over two years ago. Since that time, I've written thoughts that have connected with my past, my present, and even some looking toward the future. It started out as a kind of memorial to my late brother Mike who chose the verse about this them from Ecclesiastes 7 during his battle with cancer. All this has given me pause to think many times in the eleven years since we said our final goodbye to him.
But, as I write this, there are other milestones I encounter. It happens to be my forty-eighth birthday today. And, while that means well wishes, gifts, cards, and such, it also marks the coming of another milestone ... tomorrow (October 25, 2011) marks twenty-five years since we sent Dad on ahead. As I consider the weight of those years - so distant and yet still so heavy - I am also reminded that the Crooked Path still has miles for me to travel.
So, how does one go about remembering the past but not letting it weigh you down? What really does lie ahead? The writer in Hebrews had a few thoughts along these lines. In that letter, after the wonderful section about the heritage of faith that has gone before us, he comes to what we know as chapter twelve and opens it with the thoughts above. In those verses, I find two themes on which to set my heart.
First, I am to lay aside anything that holds me back. All the trappings of this present world, the sin and fault that always seems to try and hold me back, anything that would keep me from what is ahead. And, second, I need to refocus on Jesus and take to the Crooked Path they way He traveled it.
There is no problem I cannot bring to Him. I will find not one square inch of my path where He has not gone before me. He is the seasoned Guide who knows how to make it through. He is my Divine Older Brother, encouraging and lifting me every step - at every turn. I do not travel alone, regardless of how isolated I may feel at times. Plus, I can walk with Him in the courage and strength of those who have gone before me, knowing I am not the first to take this journey and I will not be the last. They line my path and call out from the finish in an echo of God's message to me.
Yet in another, mysterious way, Jesus is also at the end of the Crooked Path. He always has been, ever since the day the Father received Him back into His presence and seated Jesus at His side. It is a place of honor I can think of when the way gets especially weary. I can close my eyes and think about my Lord and Savior waiting at the end of my journey as well.
Oddly enough, the thoughts that speak to me most clearly are those exchanged by a wizard and a Hobbit. The exchange, which happens as the gate is about to be broken down, goes as follows:
Pippin: I didn't think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?
Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: Well, that isn't so bad.
Gandalf: No. No, it isn't.
So, when the "grey rain-curtain" that shrouds my Crooked Path finally rolls back, I can be assured of what I will see. I will see my Dad, Mike, and many others who have gone before me. I believe they will know I am coming, just like the Hebrews passage says. But most of all, I will see Jesus and I'll know this part of my journey is complete. And, as the young Hobbit said, that won't be so bad at all. The journey is temporary, you see, but it leads to a permanent home. That is a very encouraging thought for the journey.
- Is the journey getting difficult for you? Can you trust the words from Hebrews that you can find encouragement, the kind only faith can bring?
- Can you feel your Divine Brother both beside you and ahead of you, helping and also waiting?
- When you can't hold on by yourself, can you trust God to do it for you?