Mark 8:34 (NRSV)
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
We recently moved to a new home in Hurricane, WV, and I’ve been mapping out my new four-mile walking route. Each time we’ve moved, I realize how much I enjoy having my walking routes already established. When I’m creating a new route I need to keep track of my distance covered, watch out for places to avoid, and sometimes reroute myself. Especially here with the hills, I can’t see too far ahead and so I have often found myself wandering down dead end roads or encountering steep hills. There is also some disappointment when I believe I have covered a certain distance, only to look at my mileage app and learn that I am far from my goal.
Once my route is in place, I can listen to music, become absorbed in my thoughts, appreciate the scenery, and enjoy the exercise. The time and distance pass more quickly and easily!
When Jesus invites us to follow him, we aren’t given maps or pre-set routes. Although there are many times when we can walk familiar paths and enjoy the music, most days will bring something new and unknown. At times we will encounter dead ends or detours. We will need to climb steep and challenging hills. We may walk into a place where we aren’t welcome. We don’t know exactly where or how far Jesus is taking us on this earthly life journey. We only know that we want to follow him; that his route is our best and only route!
The unknown paths are challenging. But I’ve also discovered some blessings as I’ve walked the new, unfamiliar routes. I’ve met some wonderful people. I’ve seen surprising vistas and beauty. I’m breathing fresh air and getting my exercise. I’m excited to see how this scenery will change with each new season. And always, I know that eventually I will return home.
Jesus is beckoning us to follow him, and this is our Lenten practice for today. May we take each step of our journey in good courage, knowing that we will encounter challenges, but that we will also be blessed with wonderful new discoveries, friendships and vistas! No maps are needed. We will always be heading for home, with Jesus as our companion and guide for the journey.
Our symbol for today is a map. (Paper maps are becoming a thing of the past, aren’t they?) May it remind us to follow Jesus, wherever he leads us. It is always the best road home.
Our prayer for today is one of my favorites. It was written by Father Mychal Judge, a FDNY chaplain who died while helping at the Twin Towers on 9/11.
FATHER MYCHAL’S PRAYER
Lord, take me where You want me to go;
Let me meet who You want me to meet;
Tell me what You want me to say, and
Keep me out of Your way.