I was recently contacted by a guy who has been living on the road for thirty years! When we say living on the road, we tend to mean that someone is away from home and on a journey. When we say living on the road, we tend to think that it is only temporary and that home is where the person would really want to be…home is where the heart is, right? But after thirty years of being on the road…doesn’t the road become home? Being away from home—home…the familiar, the safe place, the rest and peace and love of others—how long does it take for home to not be home anymore?
This week’s Gospel verse makes it easy to think about roads and travelling. The famous road to Emmaus passage. Mysterious. Joyful. Easter Morning, two lower tier disciples are travelling away from Jerusalem, headed to the small town of Emmaus. Why were they journeying there? Were they headed home? They had begun a journey with Jesus, lived with him on the road, but was there anything left for them down that road? Whatever the reason they were on this road, they were clearly downtrodden over the death of Jesus: they had “hoped” Jesus was the Messiah. But there doesn’t seem to be any expectation…not even when some of the women said that he was alive.
They meet another road traveler who enters the conversation. This guy knew so much about the Scriptures! He must have logged many miles reading them. Whenever they told him about Jesus, he would point out how his life’s journey corresponded to the prophesies of the prophets and even The Law. As the day closed, they shared table with him and found they had been travelling with Jesus all along!
This road travelling brought to mind many images, songs, and stories to mind. The first is the famous poem by Robert Frost: “The Road Not Taken.”
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, Then took the other, as just as fair,
And sorry I could not travel both And having perhaps the better claim,
And be one traveler, long I stood Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
And looked down one as far as I could Though as for that the passing there
To where it bent in the undergrowth; Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay I shall be telling this with a sigh
In leaves no step had trodden black. Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Oh, I kept the first for another day! Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I took the one less traveled by,
I doubted if I should ever come back. And that has made all the difference.
I think of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The wholesome Hobbit, Frodo Baggins, is given a burden…the Ring of Power. It is a journey of discovery…that the small ring he carries…power…has the ability to fool him in its true nature, Evil…to defile and kill him and all around him. He discovers that he is on a treacherous journey to destroy the ring.
I think of some favorite lyrics to a song: “I have not been home since you left long ago/I can’t be free with what locked inside of me/if there’s a key, you took it in your hand/no matter how cold the winter/there’s a springtime ahead/I’m thumbing my way back to heaven/I can’t see what’s next from this lonely overpass/hang my head and count my steps as another car goes past/all the rusted signs we ignore throughout our lives/choosing the shiny ones instead”
I returned to the 1 Peter passage with “travelling” eyes. Even in our first verse (17) we see an element of being away from home: exiles. If we invoke or call upon God as our Father, we are foreigners, exiles, highway travelers in this world. We are called away from our old home of sin and onto the journey of holiness. And just like living on the road does…at some point, we come to a fork in the road, and we chose one path or the other. There’s a choice for Life and there’s a choice for Death.
It is the road that Jesus created and made possible for us to take. I do believe that it is difficult but it isn’t lonely and it isn’t impossible.
It is difficult because we are being called to live as Jesus. Learning to walk like Christ, to take the road of Christ…. I see that Peter talks about purification, which is about cleansing past sin away, but living a holy life going forward. And Peter ties all of this to Love—loving each other sincerely. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
The life on the road that the guy had been on for thirty years is addiction. Thirty years of addiction. He’s a Christian. He’s a Christian trying to walk down multiple roads at once…and it is tearing him apart…and his family…and his church community. He has come to the fork in the road and he must choose.
I think some of us can relate. We’ve seen folks make great “fork in the road” choices and we’ve seen tragic ones, too. But are we able to see it in our own life? If we are honest about the road we are on, the roads we are on, we see that life is about choices. We cannot travel multiple roads. We can only travel one. And there is only one road that is a Saving Road. At some point, we must choose between Christ and…what? Substances or security/money or behaviors or attitudes or career or culture or entertainment or adventure or family or our love of self… or what? This road we have embarked on, and that we travel together, Peter says in verse 22 that it is about Love… laying down ourselves and lifting up another.
Two roads diverged in my life, and I chose the Via Christi (Road of Christ)… Vitae Christi (Life of Christ), and that has made all the difference. What choices are coming up the road for you?
Which road will you travel? If someone were to observe your daily life, what would they conclude about you? Would it match what you want for yourself? Would it match what God wants for you?