One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun… ~C.S. Lewis
We so easily forget from Whom and Where we come, the purpose for which we are created and sent forth, how bright and everlasting our origins. If we fail to live and serve as intended, it is from our own frailty, not that of the Creator.
When light shines so that others might see, we are simply the beam and not the source. The path leads back to the Triune God and we are but a mere pathway.
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back… I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence… ~Robert Frost (1916) from “The Road Not Taken”
Two lonely cross-roads that themselves cross each other I have walked several times this winter without meeting or overtaking so much as a single person on foot or on runners. The practically unbroken condition of both for several days after a snow or a blow proves that neither is much travelled. Judge then how surprised I was the other evening as I came down one to see a man, who to my own unfamiliar eyes and in the dusk looked for all the world like myself, coming down the other, his approach to the point where our paths must intersect being so timed that unless one of us pulled up we must inevitably collide. I felt as if I was going to meet my own image in a slanting mirror. Or say I felt as we slowly converged on the same point with the same noiseless yet laborious stride as if we were two images about to float together with the uncrossing of someone’s eyes. I verily expected to take up or absorb this other self and feel the stronger by the addition for the three-mile journey home. But I didn’t go forward to the touch. I stood still in wonderment and let him pass by; and that, too, with the fatal omission of not trying to find out by a comparison of lives and immediate and remote interests what could have brought us by crossing paths to the same point in a wilderness at the same moment of nightfall. Some purpose I doubt not, if we could but have made out. I like a coincidence almost as well as an incongruity. ~Robert Frost (1911) from “Selected Letters”
Way leads on to way: I am far enough down the road that I don’t recall all the options I have faced over the years of my journey. I know there were times I ran into an impossible sticky thicket, so had to double back and try a different route. Maybe I have learned since to choose more carefully.
I don’t believe in coincidence and I don’t believe our choices are randomly made. I believe I am shepherded in the direction I am meant to go. The issue is whether I listen or whether I bolt the opposite way, come what may.
All the paths of the Lord are loving and faithful Psalm 25:10
“All does not mean ‘all – except the paths I am walking in now,’ or ‘nearly all – except this especially difficult and painful path.’ All must mean all. So, your path with its unexplained sorrow or turmoil, and mine with its sharp flints and briers – and both our paths, with their unexplained perplexity, their sheer mystery – they are His paths, on which he will show Himself loving and faithful. Nothing else; nothing less. ~Amy Carmichael–Anglican missionary to India 1867-1951
Sometimes we come upon forks in the road where we may not be certain which path to take. Perhaps explore the Robert Frost “less traveled” one? Or take the one that seems less tangled and uncertain from all appearances?
Sometimes we have chosen a particular path which looked inviting at the time, trundling along minding our own business, yet we start bonking our heads on low hanging branches, or get grabbed by stickers and thorns that rip our clothes and skin, or trip over prominent roots and rocks that impede our progress and bruise our feet.
Sometimes we come to a sudden end in a path and face a steep cliff with no choice but to leap or turn back through the mess we have just slogged through.
Navigating the road to the cross must have felt like ending up at that steep cliff. There was no turning back, no choosing or negotiating a different pathway or taking time to build a staircase into the rocks. His words reflect His uncertainty and terror. His words reflect our deepest doubts and fears–how are we to trust we are on the right path?
When we take that next step, no matter which way, we end up in the Father’s loving and faithful arms. He has promised this.
Wind finds the northwest gap, fall comes. Today, under gray cloud-scud and over gray Wind-flicker of forest, in perfect formation, wild geese Head for a land of warm water, the boom, the lead pellet.
Some crumple in air, fall. Some stagger, recover control, Then take the last glide for a far glint of water. None Knows what has happened. Now, today, watching How tirelessly V upon V arrows the season’s logic.
Do I know my own story? At least, they know When the hour comes for the great wind-beat. Sky-strider, Star-strider–they rise, and the imperial utterance, Which cries out for distance, quivers in the wheeling sky.
That much they know, and in their nature know The path of pathlessness, with all the joy Of destiny fulfilling its own name. I have known time and distance, but not why I am here.
Path of logic, path of folly, all The same–and I stand, my face lifted now skyward, Hearing the high beat, my arms outstretched in the tingling Process of transformation, and soon tough legs,
With folded feet, trail in the sounding vacuum of passage, And my heart is impacted with a fierce impulse To unwordable utterance– Toward sunset, at a great height. ~Robert Penn Warren from “The Collected Poems”
I wish I could be as sure as the geese and swans flying overhead in unwordable utterance~ they trust where they are led is where they belong.
They may not make it there but nevertheless they go when called.
I wish I might fly into the setting sun on such a path of pathlessness knowing only I am sent because the call is stronger than I am.
On the day when The weight deadens On your shoulders And you stumble, May the clay dance To balance you.
And when your eyes Freeze behind The grey window And the ghost of loss Gets into you, May a flock of colours, Indigo, red, green And azure blue, Come to awaken in you A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays In the currach of thought And a stain of ocean Blackens beneath you, May there come across the waters A path of yellow moonlight To bring you safely home. ~John O’Donohue from “Beannacht”
I figure I was born unbalanced in one way or another. I was the kid who couldn’t manage roller skating out of fear of falling, clinging to the rail rather than risk being ground-bound yet again. My one and only cross country skiing experience was actually cross-country sitting more than gliding. I still freeze in place when trying to walk over an icy surface or down a steep incline — my brain just can’t help my body navigate anything other than a straight flat pathway.
It isn’t just physical balance that is a challenge for me. As a child, and still at times in my later years, my feelings can be intense and immobilizing too, every disappointment becoming tragedy and every happy moment so joyous I cling to it fiercely, fearing it could fade.
A blessing of balance is ideal: ground that dances to steady me when I stumble, a palette of rainbow colors to overwhelm gray emotions when I’m struggling, a lighted pathway if the going gets dark.
I’ve given up the idea of skating or skiing, but just maybe I can ride and glide through the waves of life without getting seasick.
into the coppery halls of beech and intricate oak to be close to the trees as they whisper together let fall their leaves, and we die for the winter ~Katherine Towers “Whim Wood” from The Remedies
Lord: it’s time. The summer was magnificent. Lay your shadows upon the sun-dials and o’er the isles allow your winds to vent.
Command the final fruits to be full and fine; give them two more days in the southern sun, push them to completion and then run the last sweetness through the heavy wine.
He who now has no house, will build one never. He who is alone, will long so remain, will awaken, read, lengthy letters pen and in the lanes will forever restlessly wander, when the leaves are driven. ~Rainer Maria Rilke “Autumn Day”
I’m drawn to pathways that lead to an unseen destination ahead.
Perhaps the endpoint is out of sight round a curve, or over a rise, or it is too far distant for my eyes to find.
I’m called to journey forth, even when staying put seems easier. There is a restlessness to these days, to these wanderings, as I keep looking behind to see where I’ve been.
Lord, help me find my way. Lord, it is time I find my way.
The reason Lent is so long is that this path to the truth of oneself is long and snagged with thorns, and at the very end one stands alone before the broken body crowned with thorns upon the cross. All alone – with not one illusion or self-delusion to prop one up.
Yet not alone, for the Spirit of Holiness, who is also the Spirit of Helpfulness, is beside you and me. Indeed, this Spirit has helped to maneuver you and me down that dark, steep path to this crucial spot.
~Edna Hong from Bread and Wine
Christ … is a thorn in the brain. Christ is God crying I am here, and here not only in what exalts and completes and uplifts you, but here in what appalls, offends, and degrades you, here in what activates and exacerbates all that you would call not-God. To walk through the fog of God toward the clarity of Christ is difficult because of how unlovely, how ungodly that clarity often turns out to be. ~Christian Wiman from Image Journal “Varieties of Quiet”
For how many years did I wander slowly through the forest. What wonder and glory I would have missed had I ever been in a hurry! ~Mary Oliver from “Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way” from Felicity
God is at home, it’s we who have gone out for a walk. ~Meister Eckhart
Sometimes going for a walk is too much like a sprint, as far and as fast as possible.
Sometimes it is a spontaneous trek into the unknown, just to prove it can be done.
Sometimes it is a climb into the dark, with precipices and crumbling ledges under our feet.
Sometimes it is simply a journey of curiosity to see what may be around the corner.
No matter why or where or how far we wander,
or how slowly,
the path home shines just bright enough
to show us the way back to His glory
when we are ready.
He is there, waiting.
He keeps the light on for us.
Twice each day I walk the same downhill path to the barn for chores. Sometimes I’m half asleep, sometimes weary from working a long day at the clinic, most often in the dark, sometimes sliding on icy snow, sometimes slipping in mud from unending rain, sometimes wading through a sea of overgrown grass. The constant in this twice daily journey is the path itself and where it always takes me– no matter what time of year, the state of the weather, or how temporarily difficult to discern. My feet have learned the way by feel as much as by sight–the twist here, the dip there, the curve around the septic tank lid, the aromatic stretch through the stand of wild mint, all while trying to avoid stepping on the playful farm dogs or the swerving barn cat perpetually underfoot.
I prefer to take the demarcated path to the barn as it keeps me focused on the task ahead of me. If I happen to deviate, I will surely find weeds to pull, a woodpecker to admire, a cluster of cherries to eat, or a sweet pea blossom to smell. The distraction may bring me momentary pleasure but so much work remains yet to be done. I must find my way back to the path and stick to it.
As a teenager, I was a trailblazer, bushwhacking my way through brambles to see what might be on the other side, or to discover a new favorite place in the woods, or simply to prove I was stronger than the brush that yielded to me. In my middle age, I tend to stick to the familiar. I like knowing where my feet will land, what work my hands will touch, and where my head will rest. The adventure of the unknown, so attractive in my youth that it took me to remote Tanzania, is less appealing now. The visible path, even when difficult to follow due to cover of snow, sea of mud, or abundance of overgrowth, is reassurance that I have a purpose and a destination. I can see where I am going and I know where I’ve been.
We tread many paths during our time on this soil–some routine and mundane, leading to the barns and chores in our life, and others a matter of faith, trust, heart and spirit. As tempting as it is to deviate, the path is there for good reason. It doesn’t have to be a super highway, or lined with gold or even paved with good intentions. It is rarely straight. But it must be true, steadfastly leading us to where we are called and back again to where we belong.
It’s a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.
— J.R.R. Tolkien
Every day I embark on new adventure, like it or not. The moment I wake from dreams and acknowledge a new morning, when my eyes and ears open and take it in, when I first step onto the floor and start my journey–I pray the road rises to meet me and leads me where I need to go.
Inside my head and inside my house, all appears routine and certain. The moment I walk out the door, down the steps and make my way into the day, there awaits an unpredictable and often hostile world. Rather than armor myself, girding for disaster, I need to “keep my feet.” If I know where I’m about to step, I’m more likely to be ready for the one after–less likely to stroll blindly into a deep ditch, stumble oblivious into a hornet’s nest, disappear unexpectedly into a hidden crevasse, swept completely away in a gust of wind.
It’s a dangerous business, this waking up and living.