Respect the Road
Here's the thing. No one can live your life for you. That's it. And you already knew that. So why is it we so easily capitulate, yielding to some teaching the ancients have left us, some rule a religious authority enforces, some discipline given to us by someone who supposedly knows better?
Other people’s advice only makes sense if it awakens something within us, something that elicits our own "Amen!" Because it's your life. At its end, it'll be you, not someone else, standing before our Creator, giving an account of your days. "I did what I was told," just won't cut it.
I think Jesus would have been mortified at what the first few generations of his followers did with his teachings. For him, it was about God's realm, discernible here on earth; but they made it all about him, his divinity, and his death on the cross for our sins. He taught trust in God, and faith; they made it about belief in authorized creeds, and about obedience. He demonstrated a radical and unconditional love; they made it about the conditions for salvation, and about judgement.
I think Jesus was trying to draw our attention to the road itself, not to its destination, to God's presence in everything we do and in everyone we meet along the way. If we're even half "woke," the road itself will be our teacher. God will be in the birds that fall, in the planting as well as in the reaping, and in the wind that blows where it will. Our way will open to us. Our job, as Jesus taught, is to pay attention and, when the next step presents itself, take it.
How did we make it more complicated than this, with rules to follow and rulers to obey? Did we not think the road would rise to meet us, that we'd get what we need along the way? Was it just easier to believe what others told us than to have faith and to learn for ourselves? Are we still the dull disciples, never quite catching the drift of our teacher or even, worse, blind guides directing others to places we ourselves have never been? How did we lose our way, taking directions we could have figured out for ourselves, if only we'd looked up, and looked around?
Jesus felt this frustration with the crowds who followed him. They never seemed to get it. "You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky," he said, the coming of the rain or the beating down of the sun, "so why do you not know how to interpret the present time?" Why indeed? We feel his frustration still.
Have faith. Trust the Spirit. Take the next step. The road itself will show you the way.
Next Week, and through the summer: Parables