Thursday, February 07, 2013

A Path is not a Road

You shall not make for yourself an idol . . . (Exodus 20:4).

Hwy 64 was under construction. From the look of things, it had been for a long time.

It didn’t take much imagination to see that this ‘highway’ had long been a two lane country road. But western Wake County was changing and the two lanes that connected Apex to Raleigh were no longer adequate for the burgeoning population of the area. Marnie and I, along with our infant son, added three people to that population. Soon after we moved to North Carolina the two new lanes opened.

Roads evolve because of the numbers of people that use them. The volume of traffic creates the need to turn two lanes to four. Further, roads seem designed to for speed. Even if left unpaved, roads are wide enough to accommodate vehicles. But a path is for walking. Paths invite and even demand a slower pace. Roads are things that we build. Paths emerge. Roads are constructed. Paths are discovered.

Admittedly, a path exists because someone else has walked there. It is right that we consider God’s Law as a path. It shows us where God’s people have walked, a way of life that has been practiced and traveled for millennia. But while many have walked this way, the traffic growing through the ages and across the nations, the path has not become a road. This trail has not become a highway.

There are still rocks and roots, rough terrain and demanding climbs. All who set out to follow God’s way face the same challenges and dangers and joys. Previous travelers have not paved the path, making it easier, setting up rest areas and hotels. As of 2011 roughly 3200 people had climbed Mt. Everest. Not one of them attempted to make the endeavor ‘user friendly.’ You won’t find any tourists at the top of Mt. Everest.

Too often we grow impatient with the path. It’s too inefficient. It’s much work. It’s too slow. And so we set out to build a road. We throw ourselves in to the work of making our own way in this world. This is what God told us not to do.

The language of the commandment speaks of making idols. Few of us actually carve little deities and give them our worship, but we do love the work of our own hands. We love the roads we build, the way of life that we create on our own. The roads we construct may allow us to move fast, they may seem easier to travel. But the destination is either unknown or – once we get there - we are disappointed upon arrival. Sometimes the road is ‘out.’ We just don’t see it.

Here’s the good news: it’s never too late to turn back on the road we’ve made for ourselves and begin walking God’s path. The biblical word for this turning is ‘repentance.’

What way are you traveling these days? God invites you to be done with the work of building your own road. He invites you to be done with life as a race, or life as a commute. Leave the highway and discover the adventure of the path.

Free us, O God, from our attachment to the roads we’ve made and the way of life we’ve created for ourselves apart from you. Move us to repentance and make us bold to walk your path, knowing that Jesus has called us to ‘follow’ and he will faithfully guide our steps. We ask this in his name, Amen.

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