Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stay On the Road

Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do no swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

                        Proverbs 4.25-27 

Wondering and Wandering

Early in life we’re flooded with tales of pathfinders—Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and everyone’s favorite, Dorothy and her misfit band. The stories vary, but their morals remain the same: stay on the road. If you roam off or dilly-dally on the way, you’re headed for danger. This lesson dominates fairy tales because kids are naturally curious. It’s a trait passed down from Adam and Eve, whose need to know steered them directly out of Eden. Sticking to the path frustrates us; it’s so narrow, while the world it crosses seems so wide. Intriguing sights and sounds promise novel excitement and short cuts. In the end, however, they fizzle and run us in circles. Thus every pathfinder tale is really a cautionary fable about how wondering what’s off the path leads to wandering into trouble.

But my, what big eyes we have! The prospect of adventure blinds us to adversity and duress that come with leaving the path. That’s what Jesus means in Matthew 7.13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Finding Christ’s road is crucial. Then, once we’ve found it, it’s twice as crucial to stay on it. More people leave the beaten path than we suspect. When we impulsively lope into the backcountry, we discover it’s swarming with multitudes just as lost and confused as we are. There’s no benefit in wondering and wandering.

Fixed and Firm

Staying on the road requires focus and fortitude. Solomon counsels us to keep our sight fixed on what’s before us and limit our travels to paths where our footing is assured. Our path isn’t always smooth. We encounter bumps in the road that are no less challenging than hiking through thickets and vaulting canyons. We twist a few ankles, stumble over potholes, and sometimes fall flat on our faces. If that’s true, why not jump the curb for a walk on the wild side? Before taking that leap, let’s remember the difference isn’t on the ground. It’s on the horizon. We can see where we’re going as long as we stick to the road. “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you,” Solomon says.

As with his legendary split-the-baby ruling, Solomon offers a suggestion that exposes the flaw in concluding there’s no difference in tripping down a rough road and over rugged terrain. When we meet bumpy, pocked stretches of road, he advises us to repair them. “Make level paths for your feet,” he says. Any civil engineer will confirm smoothing out buckles and filling in holes are much simpler than carving roads in the wilderness. Mending the road as we go keeps our footing secure. We iron out creases in relationships and refill spots where we’ve dug up dirt. Once the road is even again, we keep going, with our steps firm and our sense of progress restored.

Gaping and Gasping

During my time in Southern California, wildfire swept the Anaheim Hills near where I lived. For reasons that escape me now, I was on the far side of the fire and had to drive past it to get home. The firefighters threw all they had to prevent the blaze from leaping the 91 Freeway, where the homes stood more closely together and the population was denser. The highway patrol set up a roadblock several miles ahead of the fire’s location. Only drivers with licenses proving they lived on the other side were allowed to pass. When he learned I was one of them, the patrolman said, “Don’t slow down to look at the fire. Just keep driving. It’s safe for now, but if we get a gaper’s block we can’t guarantee anyone’s safety.”

That’s Solomon’s final message about staying on the road. “Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” The narrow road to Christ is forever safe. But it cuts through treacherous territory. If we allow surrounding evil to transfix us, our gaping and gasping will create bottlenecks that endanger others and us. Jesus leads. We follow. If we veer left or right, we lose sight of Him. We trip into harmful thoughts and behaviors. We risk harming others. Yes, it is a narrow road. It’s a hard road. It’s a straight road that doesn’t engage our curiosity like the territory it slices through. But it’s the right road, the best road, the safest road—a road worth staying on at all times and all costs.

Don’t swerve left or right. Keep going.

(Tomorrow: More to Do)

Postscript: S-F on FB

So I made the plunge, following so many of you brave souls into the whirlpool that is Facebook. My primary reason is right here—extending Straight-Friendly’s exposure to others looking for a safe, welcome place to explore our faith. If you’re a Facebook patron, I’d greatly appreciate your including the group on your page. They’ve got this viral networking thing down to a science. (Or is it an art?)

Here’s the link:

Straight-Friendly on FB

If we can help those looking for encouragement and faith find it, either here or via inclusive churches and blogs linked here, we should do it. I know S-F isn’t for everyone. But it’s for someone. Helping him/her find it will be a blessing to us all.

Peace, Tim


genevieve said...

Right now I'm reflecting on how best to encourage and help others. My journey as a transgender person has kept me on the straight and narrow. It's also made dig deeper into the word and what it really means.

Tim said...

I believe you're right about this, Genevieve. Gay and transgender people learn to focus very quickly and know how to stay focused. The journey to self-acceptance demands that.

Yet it also crosses some treacherous territory where temptations to leave the road are particularly forceful. For example, many young GLBT kids leave their small towns for gay Meccas and when they find themselves in gay-positive surroundings, they lose their way. Many of them get naîvely drawn into dark places far off their path of personal and spiritual fulfillment. And some of them never find their way back--they get lost in forests of addiction, promiscuity, cynicism, debasing practices, and illness.

People like you and the other gay folks who contribute to our discussions here provide critically needed examples for our community. You are living proof of the progress anyone, gay or straight, can experience by keeping on the straight and narrow.

As you reflect on how to help others, know that your commitment to God, others, and yourself is already a great source of strength for those you reach out to. You are blessing to them and you will be blessed because of it.

Thank you, as always, for your witness and wisdom. It's ever refreshing and inspiring.

Joy and peace,

genevieve said...

The second paragraph resonates with me because of what I've heard, read and witnessed. When I took a more serious interest in AIDS I wept when I read about the many young men and women lost to this disease. They lost their way and never made it back.

At times I wonder where this journey will take me. However, I don't feel compelled to get off course because a lot depends upon staying on the path.

Tim said...

Staying on the path is the only way to find out where the journey takes you, Genevieve. I can't conceive anyone goes astray and gets lost from God and him/herself because God wills it so. The path is His will and it will take us where He wants us to go--which is where we want to be.

Remember, we are hidden in Christ with God. He is our protection and guide. He'll get us home safely. (And there'll be plenty of exciting experiences and revelations along the way, too!)

Blessings always,

PS: Don't know if you're on Facebook, but if you are, I'd love it you joined the S-F group I just opened there. The link's at the top of the right column. If not, no need to bother; seeing you here is always a fine thing.

Anonymous said...

I've let my morning devotions slide for so long!

How sad that the first post in my reader when I buckle down and try to be more disciplined was something that could have given me encouragement and kept me from being away so long.

It never ceases to amaze me and fill me with wonder at our God that each one of you posts is a word in due time for me no matter how wide the gap between when you wrote it and when I read it.

Feels good to be back, and I can't wait to see what I've missed.

Tim said...

Jake, glad you're back! The great thing about the Word is it's always on-time no matter when we come to it. Is speaks timeless truth.

Still, it's always great to see and hear your thoughts. When you're gone, they're sorely missed!