Twin Paths

campfire and sparksI am seated back a bit from the fire. Around me are other travelers, all weary from the walk of the day, glad for a rest, glad to be together. We are an odd lot, tossed together by happenstance (if there is such a thing) and by the juncture in the roads. Now, nestled among the trees just off the roads, we sit together.

Those around me who are talkers are telling their stories and I, a listener, am listening. The stories weave in and out among each other and there are common themes and nods of understanding. We have opened our packs and bread has been shared. We nibble at the last of the crusts, for we are full but the crusts are good.

At last I lean back on to the grass and look up at the stars. The warmth of the fire is on my legs and the cool of the night air bathes my face. I am drifting into sleep when a young traveler begins to speak to me. She is early in her journey and full of questions. I am a bit further down my road, and hold no answers, but strangely, fewer questions.

I remember asking the same ones she is asking now. Where will this road lead? What am I to do? Will I do it well? Will the Lord be pleased with my efforts? How can I please God at all, being small and empty? How does the balance of work and faith find its middle point? How can I do without trusting in the doing? How can I release the doing without failure – for my self and others? Oh, the list goes on and it makes me smile to myself. She is lost in her questions and does not see me smile. Her questions make me smile, not because I think them silly, but because I am suddenly aware that they are less important than they were before, for me.

As I said, I have no real answers yet, but a greater peace. She looks down at me at last and her eyes hold the question marks of all her quandaries. She is hoping for an answer or two from me. Or, at least, some pointers on where she might dig, what rock she might turn, in order to find the way.

“Lean back,” I tell her, “lean back with me and look for a moment at the stars.”

Thinking I am about to give her some profound insight, she willingly obeys. She leans back on the grass and we are lying side by side looking at the stars in the night sky and feeling the cool air upon our cheeks and the soft wind in our hair. I almost drop off to sleep and she, I can tell, is impatient with my sleepiness.

“See that star?” I rouse myself enough to point to the sky.

“Yes,” she says and pulls herself to her elbows, but then thinks the better of it, she lies back in the grass.

“Walk that way,” I say.

She looks at me to see if I am joking and when she sees that I am not, she becomes very serious. “I cannot walk through air,” she says. “How can I walk that way?”

“Walk in your heart.”

“Ah. . .” she says, trying to hold the idea. And then she gives up. “How do I do that?”

“There are really two paths you travel at once,” I tell her. It’s not like I knew this until the words escape my lips. “The paths of your actions, the dust of the road, even your place here beside the fire – these are one path.   The other, in your heart, is the one that really makes the difference. But, amphibious creatures that we are, we don’t have our air legs from the start. We can, however, find the way to the star within the dust of the road and the firmness of the staff within our hands. One path unfolds within the other.”

“So, how do I walk to the star?” she is still unsure.

“By walking in faith. It is fine to ask your questions. I ask them myself. But know that the answers are just the shadow of the truth. The road is not the dust, nor the turns, nor the tip of the staff, but the yearning toward our destination.”

“See, even as I try to bring you words to tell you where my path has gone,” I continue, “even as I try to tell you how I strive to walk that way, I must borrow the words of one road to frame the other. There is dust in the beams of light and it helps to reveal the way.”

I pause, and then continue, “I hardly know what to say, or even what I mean. But I do know this. He holds both – the road and the star. And, though striving to please him is good, the striving has pleased him already. There is no failure for a redeemed soul. And you have been redeemed.”

“So, you can rest, even as you struggle. And you can smile, even as you wrinkle your brow. And, see? The star winks at us and bathes us in its light. The way is there before us and our feet already walk its distance.” I turn to see what she would say to this and find she is asleep. I’m glad; the answers were already beyond me. I can hear the whisper of their meaning but not the shout. That’s all right. The whispers let me sleep. And it feels good.

It feels good to let myself go into the arms of the Lord, even when I’ve just begun, even when the road still stretches out before me, even when the star’s call is still quite distant. I still can rest, for all, all, is in his hands. As am I. As am I.

8-8-01

[photo by Kathi per cc 2.0]

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