There have been many roads that I have taken in my life. Some have been dead ends, some have been wrong turns, and some few might have been in the right direction but my ignorance and/or wrong-headedness led me astray. However, as I look back on the roads I have traveled, I do not so much regret that I strayed from the “straight and narrow” as much as I am grateful for what I have learned.
In my youth, I made decisions that led me on a difficulty journey. It was a rocky path that led to the desert where I wandered for many years. However, this desert helped to create my character and mold me in ways my early training could not do. I often felt lost and alone, and wanted to escape the desert that I had created. Yet, it was not my time.
J.R.R. Tolkien said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” In one of the great paradoxes of my life, I was indeed lost, wandering, searching after goals that I had set for myself. I was supremely confident and convinced that my path was clear, straight and narrow. Like the Hebrew children who wandered the desert for forty years, they had a destination but they simply did not know how to get there. I also wandered for many years, and like the followers of Moses, I was certain I knew how to get to where I wanted to go. If I only worked hard enough, studied enough, learned enough, prayed enough, worshiped enough, always urging myself to do more and work harder, then I would get to where I wanted to go. However, after many years of struggling down the wrong path, I finally realized that not only was I on the wrong path but I also had the wrong destination in mind. My goals were not only inaccurate and misguided, they were flat-out wrong.
I have been blessed with family, friends, talents and other gifts, which I have not always appreciated and/or put to good use. I cannot say that I am doing so now, but I am trying to do better by setting better goals, exercising self-discipline and trying to control the OCD part of me that seems to take over at times. Jesus said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matt 7:14 KJV He always seemed to talk in paradoxes or teach in parables which lend themselves to various interpretations and frequently more questions than answers. Like what is this gate and narrow path and how am I to find it? How do I avoid making wrong turns and choosing the wrong road?
For me, what I have discovered, is that there is one simple commandment, one road to take that will lead you in the right direction without fail, and that is to, ” ….Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matt 22:37-39 KJV If this is my goal and my destination then there is no stress, no striving after more, no confusion, no wrong turns. However, even good intentions can become twisted, and if in serving others and in loving God, I place more emphasis on results and programs and progress and less on love, then I am once again striving after things instead of serving and loving others. I am once again headed down the wrong path, and now that I am writing again, I pray that I can enter by the right gate and stay on the narrow path.
So, it seems, I have come full circle, down many wrong paths and then back to one that I knew in my heart was right all along. I focused my thoughts and actions on the destination and missed the joys of the journey set before me. I have learned from this wilderness experience, learned from my mistakes. I have learned to pace myself, to have fun, to put people first and these are the lessons that I am taking with me. I want to do it right this time, and am packing my bags for a joyful experience.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
– Ralph Waldon Emerson