Monday, July 3, 2017
The Road Not Taken
I was meditating on the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, and the mysteries surrounding the Marriage at Cana. I read this line which I had written years ago: “The last wine was the best. It is not too late; He can help me to change.”
What struck me was the reference to it not being too late: the last can be best, and I thought that to the degree that my prior years weren’t my best, He can help me to change things. Change, that’s the key point. How can I, how can WE change, so that the latter years of our lives are the best? I recalled Mary’s words which preceded that miracle at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.” They’re the same words God the Father thundered on the mountaintop at the Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son; Listen to Him!” Listening to Him helps bring about changes in us --- even in our old age. And these last years can be our best, like fine wine aged to perfection. It is a good thing to think on.
Earthly life is short, considering our promised eternity, but earthly life is important. Life on earth sets the direction of our eternity. Each earthly life has a fork-in-the-road, a decision to be made on the direction of our eternal path. Like the wine at Cana, our life is about the changes we, in our freedom, choose. A spotlight shines on each life and all eternity watches: which path will we take at the fork?
Two paths: I imagined the first as like a walk on the beach on a warm summer’s morning; I recall with joy many such walks. The sun, the waves, they felt so good. I chose the days; I chose the beaches; it was just as I planned. Those good walks are a joy to remember --- but I tend to forget that those walks were only a week or two each year. Other walks I chose --- also with the same intended joy --- didn’t turn out to be so joyful. Some were more like walking on the beach on a stormy wintery day. Another thing I tend to forget is how slow the progress was in the sand; I really wasn’t getting anywhere. Although I may have looked back with pleasure at the footprints I left behind me in the sand ---- like my work in the world --- I didn’t think about how quickly those prints would be washed away, as if they had never existed. But doing it my way, choosing the comfortable path I wanted, seemed important at the time. In retrospect, much of my life was like that choice to walk the beach; I chose things I wanted and I thought were important: getting that new car; spending all that overtime for the boss’ pat on the back; telling off that boss, or waiting for a replacement I liked better. There were so many things I chose that I thought important, but looking back they were all so fleeting, so in the moment. They don’t seem nearly as important now, and I’m probably the only one who remembers those things I once thought so important. Perhaps because those decisions were all about me. That was the path I chose.
There is another path though, one I now choose to be on. I’ve taken the other fork in my life’s road. I didn’t choose this path to be comfortable, and it doesn’t have the same type of happiness the selfish first path does. The path isn’t like warm sand, but more like a superhighway. This is the path where Jesus paved the way. This path sometimes seems fast, like we’re making much progress, and we are, but we need to be aware that we don’t take a wrong exit. We notice others are on this path; we are not alone like walking on the beach, and we have to look out for other’s safety, but they are looking out for ours, too. Unlike the beach, the focus on this path is not the passing scenery. We can stop and enjoy things along the way, but it is not meant to be a distraction. No, the focus on this path is where we want to get to: the promised eternity. We don’t choose to linger as on the sand, focusing on the earthly scenery as if it will never end. It just seems endless. And on every beach, there will come great storms, and unprotected, that may be our end. On the superhighway, there are rest stops, havens God has prepared for our safety when storms arise, and there are others there to help us. (I pause here to chuckle as I just glanced over at the seat next to me, where sets the next book I plan to begin reading. I just noticed its title: The Road to Eternal Life!)
It’s said the road to heaven is often not taken. I don’t know the relative truth of that, although it does seem that self-centeredness is more common today than when I was young. I do know, though, that Jesus made a great effort to construct this road for us to use. I recall how roads used to have names which cited their destination, as in: “This is the road to …”. I don’t think most road names are chosen that way anymore. Perhaps that’s the reason some aren’t choosing the road Jesus laid out, because they’ve forgotten the destination of that path. Looking around at the beauty of creation, it is awful easy to focus on the journey, not the destination.
The last wine was the best --- but best in whose eyes? The walk through the sand may feel best to us, but God created the highway to heaven. “Do whatever He tells you! Listen to Him!” It’s a choice we all have to make at the fork in the road of our lives. Do we choose the path we that seems immediately comfortable, or the one He made for us? We need to choose wisely, and not just for the short term.
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A robin has built a nest in the hanging planter on my front porch (it makes watering the plant in it somewhat difficult). The bird has been sitting in the nest for this past week, but this afternoon as I sat in my living room I heard a robin’s distinctive singing. Looking out through the glass in the front door, I could see the singing robin, standing on the edge of the nest and looking down. Were there new hatchlings, or had she only felt some movement in the eggs? Regardless, I felt I was privileged to witness an intimate moment in God’s creation.
Going down God’s path you sometimes find different scenery, different joys, but you often feel that you are sharing them with Him.