Often Journeys are hard. Even trips that start out filled with excitement and promise can have some bumps along the way. A recent song by Steven Curtis Chapman illustrates this. You can watch Long Way Home here:
Chapman refers slyly to his song “The Great Adventure” in the first lines of “Long Way Home”I set out on a great adventure The day my Father started leading me home He said there's gonna be some mountains to climb And some valleys we're gonna go through But I had no way of knowing Just how hard this journey could be Cause the valleys are deeper and the mountains and steeper Than I ever would've dreamed.
Dorothy set out on the Yellow Brick Road thinking she just had to get to Oz in the Emerald City and everything would be fine. She had no way of knowing the adventures that waited for her. She met some new friends, and with them she encountered flying monkeys, defeated a witch, and learned that she could live her own life.
Naomi also had to take responsibility for her own life. When she returned to Bethlehem she blamed God for her problems. “The Lord has dealt harshly with me…” In my novel, she beings to understand that God was really in all happened.
“I was wrong. The Living Lord did not desert me.” I spoke low as comprehension burst into my heart. Tears I could not stop rolled down my face. “You once said that the Holy One of Israel provides healing even for death and pain. Ever since my father died from the bite of the serpent I have been angry with God. Everything that went wrong was another reason to blame the Lord of Life. All I saw were the many laws that had to be followed. When I AM brought the people from slavery it was not to blindly follow laws.”
“Really?” Ruth was trying to understand me. “All the gods have rules to follow.”
“That is not the way of the One God. Sarai once tried to explain to me that the Law is a guide built on love not a whip for punishment.” I raised my head and took my friend’s hands in my own. “It is in relationship with one another and with God we can all live in freedom no matter what our circumstances. Your loyalty and steadfast faith in God are all that kept me alive even when I have refused to be free. All my life I preferred rage. The Almighty never stopped providing help and comfort. Even in the depths of my despair, a way was opened to return to Bethlehem. We have come here to the land of promise.”
Only when she understands God’s love is she free to discover new joy. She can cease to be Mara and return to being Naomi.
The disciples were filled with joy and hope when they first started following Jesus. They were ready for a ‘great adventure’. Confrontations with the authorities of the day and Jesus’ own warning, “the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again,” must have made them wonder exactly what they had gotten into. Then came the entry into Jerusalem-a high point in their experience, but it was followed too quickly by betrayal, arrest and their denials. The mountains and valleys suddenly became pretty precipitous and the result pretty shrouded in fog.
I recently read a quote by Spurgeon that puts our journeys in perspective if we remember we are on the road for and with God: "He who would glorify his God must set his account upon meeting with many trials. No man can be illustrious before the Lord unless his conflicts be many. If then, yours be a much-tried path, rejoice in it, because you will the better show forth the all-sufficient grace of God. As for His failing you, never dream of it--hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end."
We all slip and stumble along the way. Dorothy had her share of problems in poppy fields and with flying monkeys. Naomi’s life was indeed difficult and the disciples struggled with understanding their Master. However, as Chapman says: “Well I know we're gonna make it And I know we're gonna get there soon. So I'll keep on singing and believing what all of my songs say, Cause our God has made a promise And I know that everything He says is true. And I know wherever we go He will never leave us Cause He's going to lead us home Every single step of the long way home.”Where are you on your road-are you starting out or going through those deep valleys? Rejoice if you are on top of the hills where you can see the vistas. We are walking with God on our journey, no matter where along the path we are. Chapman reminds us “And even on the best days He says to remember we're not home yet So don't get too comfortable Cause really all we are is just pilgrims passing through.” That is a wonderful promise and reminder.
Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and we’ll consider how dead endings may just be new beginnings.