In my home state of Minnesota there are only two seasons: winter and road construction. Road construction season coincides however with another seasonal Minnesota pastime—cabin fever! Every Friday afternoon during the warm months you’ll find a mass exodus of cars heading north for the weekend. The irony of it all is that in order to escape the mad rush of city life, one must endure yet another hectic, hair-pulling rush hour—the cabin rush.
There is one way to avoid this hassle—if you can swing it with your boss at work. You can take a day off and head up Friday morning. There is nothing better than leaving early on Friday and cruising freely past the flood of work-bound traffic as you head in the opposite direction toward the freedom of the north country. The heavy southbound traffic is crawling reluctantly toward the office to face the stress of another day’s madness. On the other side of the divider, a few happy campers drive leisurely toward the northern lake country for fun and relaxation. The point is this: It is not always best to be going with the flow of traffic. The good life may be found along the road less traveled!
There is a trade off, however. The road less traveled tends to be rougher riding. The most scenic, breathtaking vistas are often found along the bumpy, windy, more rustic paths. Those who insist on traveling the smooth, most comfortable, well-paved metro freeways may never leave the city to glimpse the beauty of the North Country.
This is true of the Christian journey as well. Jesus said it this way:
The gate is wide and the road is smooth that leads to destruction, and there are many who travel it. But the gate is narrow and the road is rugged that leads to life, and there are few who take it (Matt 7:13-14).
Long before Robert Frost, Jesus instructed Christian travelers to take the road less traveled. We are to resist the temptation to merely go with the flow. The journey of the spirit may require some back road driving, some off-road adventures and some bumpy stretches of highway. We may at times find ourselves secluded on a deserted road, wondering where everybody else is. This is no cause for alarm. You see, God has a reputation for meeting people alone in the desert (Gen 28:10; Ex 3:1-6)!
We ought to avoid simply choosing the shortest, smoothest, most comfortable routes with the most modern conveniences. Remember Israel’s journey out of Egypt? The Bible says, “God didn’t lead them by the road through the land of the Philistines, which was the shortest route… God led the people on the wilderness road, looping around to the Red Sea” (Exod 13:17-18). That wasn’t all; then God led them through the treacherous waters of the Red Sea! Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Matthew 7:13-17 puts it this way, “There are no shortcuts to God… The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.”
We are to follow Jesus up the rockiest cliffs and across the driest deserts, through the darkest nights and heaviest storms. The way of Jesus is through the waters. The way of Jesus is the Wilderness Road.
Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how (Mark 8:34 MSG).
The Jesus-road burrows a tunnel straight through Golgotha. The only way to the bright dawn of Easter is through the thick darkness of Calvary’s tomb.
Once we have found ourselves traveling down God’s Holy Highway, with the wind of the Spirit at our backs and the bright morning Son illuminating the road ahead, we will still have our share of troubles. But we can keep on truckin’ with confidence knowing that we will never have to drive alone. The very command that sends us all out into the busiest intersections of faith and everyday life comes with a reassuring promise as well:
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt 28:20).
Yes, Jesus has called shotgun in your life and will be your co-pilot and expert navigator all the way home. But if you’re really smart, you’d switch seats and let Jesus take the wheel!