Sunday, April 18, 2010
Being led where you do not want to go
In my family, the question asked on car trips was not, "Are we there yet?" but "Are we lost yet?" My mother cannot read maps and my father could not follow directions. We have been lost in every state east of the Mississippi (and a few to the west), in Canada and on the island of Puerto Rico. Not being where we wanted to be was a highlight of family vacations.
In today's Gospel, from John, Jesus pointedly tells Peter that he will be led "where you do not want to go". This seems to be a fairly consistent road map for the Christian spiritual life.
As I look back over the past two decades of my life, I can see many times where Christ has led me where I do not want to go. I have traveled paths leading to psychologists and psychiatrists, therapists of every ilk, court rooms and emergency rooms, therapy sessions and interviews. There was even one memorable evening where a chipper activities director at a group home where one of my kids was residing at the time told me I HAD to participate in a family volleyball game. Since she wasn't Christ, that was one path I didn't go down. (I did my time in high school gym class, and I ain't never going back!)
What are the options when one is being led down an unfamiliar and uncomfortable road?
You can stop. Just stay put. Refuse to take another step. Of course, then you are, well....stuck.
You can forge ahead, aimlessly tromping around, hopeful that eventually, something familiar will pop up and guide you in the right direction. This was often my dad's choice. On one occasion, this led us to a very "interesting" neighborhood in Boston where, if we had spent any more time than we did, we probably would have been initiated into a gang. On the other hand, sometimes you - quite by accident - find out where you need to go. Total crap shoot.
You can turn around and go back. Stick with what is familliar. No adventure, but no surprises (good or bad) either. All comfort, no crown.
The least popular choice, but the one that will always bear fruit, is to trust. Trust that Christ's option is ALWAYS better than yours. Trust that being led where you do not want to go does NOT mean being led somewhere bad. Oh, it might be scary and hard, but it won't be bad. Christ's path requires us to carry our cross (or drag it, as is often the case for me), but it also leads us to Easter. Christ's path is the path of crucifixion and resurrection, failing and stumbling, but also being raised up. When Christ says, "Follow me", it often seems like a step off into an abyss, but we are tethered to Christ.