I’ve been thinking about this blog all week–when I’ve been getting ready to go out in the morning or to bed at night, in the car, during my lunch hours. I’ve been bringing it up in conversation. I’ve been reading and re-reading Mark 1:1-8, and in every instance, I’ve gotten stuck.
“Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.”
It’s not that I don’t understand the metaphor–I do. I know this is about having a straight way of living, an honest heart, an openness. But I keep coming back to the same niggling thoughts: “God’s path isn’t straight.” “He’s never sent me down a straight road.” And, most disconcerting, “Does this mean I’ve chosen the wilderness?”
I may have. I do have trust issues.
The most famous path I have for contemplation is the one not taken. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I– / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”
People quote Frost’s poem most often in a positive light–the more unconventional way (which isn’t described as particularly crooked or dark or scary, but one that was “grassy and wanted wear”) is praised because it’s assumed traversing it is more difficult and thus more rewarding. When I read this poem, I don’t find the question of “better” or “worse” or “straight” or “crooked” so much as I find the simple assertion that one choice leads to a different end than another.
I’m certain my choices in life have contributed to the twists and turns my path has taken. Instead of clearing the way, I’ve built road blocks. In other places, I’ve dug ditches. I’ve taken wrong turns and I’ve taken right turns. For stretches, I’ve been in the dark. For stretches, I’ve really enjoyed the scenery. My path with God–with faith–has taken a similar winding course.
I don’t think I’ve always been on the path God would want (though, of course, this is filtered through my own moral compass and so is perhaps less about God than myself–even so). At times, I’ve certainly been on a path I think only God could want because I’d certainly prefer something easier. And in general, I have some trouble distinguishing life itself from the wilderness, and I wonder if that’s part of the point. It may be less about than path than the willingness to traverse it, to trust that the path is, in fact, traversable.
I think the straight path can be only the metaphor–it can be only the open heart. The straight line must be the one between a person and God. Humans make too many choices about life’s path for it to be straight, and God takes us into too many places we don’t know, for better or worse (or just something different).
This morning a friend of mine sent an email to several close friends with her “private prayer,” the one she utters in desperate moments. She asked what others privately prayed. I didn’t have a response.
Once, the same friend told me to pray for, if nothing else, wonder.
My path is the path it is and the one it will become, and I have to take it. It’s not going to be straight and it’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be pre-traveled at all. But I can work on that straight line between me and God. I can find my private prayer.
Until I do, I’ll be praying for wonder. I think even the wilderness is full of it.