During Lent, Christians recall—liturgically and ritually—the journey of Jesus from ministry to execution. For us it is a familiar story and a well-worn path. But we make this too easy on ourselves. In fact, we make it much too easy on Jesus.
We love the part about Jesus being divine. We read the stories of his travels and encounters; after so many years of sermons and readings we have practically memorized the steps of his life. And in “knowing” what happened, we make the assumption that he knew all along the course his life would take. That would make Jesus pretty magical. But that would not describe truthfully the life Jesus had to live.
I once took a college course on the American Civil War. We would look at maps describing the battles—all those neat arrows indicating the movement of troops from one phase to the other. Our professor pointed out to us, however, that the military folks doing all the moving had no such maps. Anyone who has been a soldier on a battlefield will tell you that it’s confusing and disorienting, pretty much from beginning to end of engagement. Even the people shouting commands are going on their best guesses and on raw instinct.
Jesus had no Gospel stories. There were no maps. He had the ancient stories of Judaism—about exodus, prophecy, salvation, and covenant. He had the Psalms, which were likely the backbone of his prayer life. But his journey materialized as he prayed and listened and made daily decisions and put his feet on this road or on that one.
We make the destiny of Jesus too easy if we do not allow for hours—perhaps days—of silence and the clashing of possibilities that had to navigate. He spent time in prayer because he needed it. Out of the near-constant noise of people’s needs and fears, the strident voices of tradition and politics, and the alarmed questions of both friends and family, Jesus had to identify the one Voice that would ring true and give direction.
Just because Jesus moved with purpose does not mean he did not wander.
Just because Jesus walked in faith does not mean he did not wonder what came next.
I, too, am a spiritual wanderer, straining to hear God’s voice in a culture shrieking dissonance. I am a spiritual wanderer, searching for God’s footprints in a world trampled and muddy. Like Jesus, I trust that, despite my own level of success, God will always find me.
And because I trust that God will always find me, I am free to wander—but as a pilgrim with a future.
Copyright © 2010 V. H. Wright