I’m sure, to your surprise, that bit of wisdom did not come from C. S. Lewis. No, not Dr. Dobson either. Actually, it’s a statement attributed to John Wayne. As I typed it, I wondered if I could get away with using it in the newsletter. It seems to be ‘knee deep’ in attitude. However, the more I looked at it the more it fit into the subject of the letter, at least better than anything I could think of from Mr. Lewis or JD. And, don’t get me wrong in this letter; I have not perfected this subject yet myself. It’s just that most of the time I know what to do, I just mess up sometimes and I don’t do what I know to do. We all have good company there; Paul seemed to suggest the same in his life.
Let’s start here. The Bible describes the Christian life as a journey. The Hebrew expression is ‘a going’. I’ve used the story of Abraham so often but he simply was told to go! Kind of ‘get thee out of here!’ Nowhere does it say God told Abraham where he was to go, just get! (“Now the Lord had said to Abraham, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee….’.) (Genesis Chapter 12) Try that some nice morning. You probably would not last the weekend on that kind of trip.
In the United States there are 4 million miles of highways in our transportation network. Those miles are only a very small percentage of the possible ways to get from point A to point B. This is a very small amount of paved area devoted to moving. We have 120,000 miles of railroad, 25,000 miles of waterway and 5,000 airports to make our lives easier. Taking those highways and transportation system routes make for a much faster, more comfortable and less challenging life experience. Imagine taking off across the country in your car without using any of the highways designed and given for your safety and ease. Tough, and like John Wayne says, life is even tougher if you don’t take the easiest way that’s been provided for you.
My father’s grandmother’s family came from Shuffle Branch, Virginia, about 1818 to Pope County, Illinois. Settled near what is now Eddyville. They came across the Wilderness Road into Kentucky, down the Ohio River and pulled ‘er in at Golconda. That was covered wagon and flatboat travel. It was hard, long and dangerous for the most part. It was the only way to travel back then, and while difficult it served them as well as could be expected. They made it after months of travel. Today we could do that trip in one day if we pushed it at all. What they would have given for a paved path all the way from Virginia to Southern Illinois. In many ways, like our highway system in this country, God’s Word has been given so that we can travel the best way, the way that is the easiest if we follow its instruction.
God has given us instructions on what direction to take, where we will end up if we take His advice and has made a multi-lane, paved highway for us to use: Scripture. Do you know what most of the world does with that ‘map’? They ignore it at best, or they try and tear it up and destroy it from being used by themselves or others at worst. We have been given the secrets of life and why we don’t follow those instructions amazes me. Now, like I said, I’m as guilty as the next guy for not doing what I know to do all the time. I know exactly how to get to St. Louis from here, although I do have my little shortcut I take to the airport occasionally. Problem is, while I know the easiest, best way to St. Louis, I could, if I chose to, cut across country and ignore those big highways 57/64/40/170N. Creeks and fences would make it more difficult and add to the time needed to get where I wanted to go, but with enough gas and time I could get there I suppose. That’s how we do God’s Word much of the time. We just refuse to go the way He says works. Anything other than those routes is a tougher way to go: harder, longer and as John Wayne would say, just stupid given the choices.
The Gospel is a little like deciding to go to Chicago from Marion. As you step it off in Marion, you might be only ½ a degree off on your direction. However, the longer you travel, the further you go off just that ½ degree causes you to end up in Indiana or in the boonies somewhere West, not Chicago! Just being off that small amount causes us to miss the mark by many miles. The Gospel is much the same. It’s important to start out in the right direction in order to end up at the final destination. The highways we take, the way we travel the Christian journey, makes a huge difference in the ease of the journey, in the goal we finally attain.
The Bible’s a map. It tells us how to get from where we are to where we want to go. Importantly, it gives us the easiest way to get there. Highways have potholes, they have repaired spots in them, but they are so much easier to travel than cross-country. There are major ways to live to be found in Scripture and doing life any other way, if not impossible, is at the least very tough -especially tough if you try and do life in any other way than the roadmap God has provided for us. We might be able to hack our way through rough country, but that’s no way to live the Christian life. The Bible should not be read as a biography, not as a history book, it’s a how-to manual.
The Gospel was nicknamed ‘the way’. Jesus was ‘the way’; we need to ‘get in the way’. I like to look at it as a great highway carrying life and we simply need to get out of the ditch and into the middle of the road. He’s moving, we should be hitch-hiking. There is always traffic and constant flow, but if we are out on our own, if we are going cross-country, we are going to find the going very tough. Loving and giving of yourself is in the middle of the highway. Trying the Gospel without getting in the middle of that loving and giving is the tough way to get to where you want to go. You may even be able to tough it out on that cross-country trip, but the trip itself will wear you out. There’s no joy on the way and you’re too weary to enjoy the destination.
Proverbs 2:7 tells us that God is the ‘buckler to them that walk uprightly’. That takes us to the old adage that the Gospel must be walk, not just talk. Literally, He is our protector, our defense, our shield, even more specifically in the original language; He is our hide, the thing that covers us. James chapter 1 tells us that we should be doers of the Word, not hearers only. If we learn of Him only, if we sing, if we study, if we memorize but have no practical application of what we have learned and sang about, according to James, we deceive ourselves. That’s part of ‘a going’. Abraham put his feet to work and combined that with his belief. There is a flow of God that makes the road, not effortless or without trouble, but much more manageable for us in this life. His is an artery of life and we will need to get into that flow in order for us to have the results we’ve hoped for. Do the Word and don’t be stupid, not taking the easier Way is a harder way to live…not sure if that’s exactly what John Wayne had in mind, but it is good advice.