For now we live in creaturely weakness and all the limits that go with that as we move toward old age and death.
When we’re young we feel immortal (though we don’t think of such matters)–that’s a good thing. The young should be allowed to be young. But as we age the world gets to be less and less a playground, the challenges we face and the decisions we must make have greater consequences and require more wisdom. If we’re fortunate we recognize our limits and if there are many options and each of them with pros and cons we become uncertain. Which? Where? How? When? What if? Ten thousand voices are whispering or shouting and confusion and uncertainty get married.
Life is too complex for any woman or man (or group of men and women) to know all the answers to even personal living much less to be able to micromanage a family, a nation or a world.
John Bunyan in the last half of the 17th century wrote an allegorical novel called Pilgrim’s Progress. Bless me, did you know that book has never been out of print though it was written well over 300 years ago? Its style makes it harder for us to read (some updated versions are on offer). Whatever its limitations it hasn’t been translated into something like 200 languages and dialects for nothing.
In the opening he falls asleep in a cave and dreams. In it the dream he sees a raggedly dressed man with a book in his hand and a great burden on his back. The man reads from the book and becomes extremely agitated and cries out, “What shall I do?” He has learned of a great catastrophe ahead for the city in which he lived and he wants to escape it but he doesn’t know how to do that. Later as he walks in the fields, still reading from the book and even more distressed the man meets one called The Evangelist who hears the man’s story of fear and the burden he carries and The Evangelist urges him to flee from the calamity to come. The distraught man responds, “But where should I flee to?”
The Evangelist points and says, Do you see yon wicker gate?” The confused man peers in that direction but confesses he can’t see it. “Well, do you see that light shining?” The man says he thinks he can see that. “Then keep you eye on the light and go straight at it and you will come to the wicker gate. Knock on it and it will be opened for you and you will be told what you are to do.”
I don’t know how many streams feed my confusion and the uncertainty that comes with it. In relation to many questions in life and living and on a regular basis I have to admit “I can’t see the wicker gate.” Nevertheless, I’m certain there’s a steady light in the distance that I can see and I’m keeping my eyes on that.
[So grateful Holy One, that your Word is a steady light way ahead of us to which we can look for direction and a lamp for our feet so we can see the killing swamps. Stay near, we pray, for we are so easily confused and we desperately need your clarity and grace to walk with assurance. This prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Light of the world.]