The Road Less Traveled

Life is complex. Each one of us must make his own path through life. There are no self-help manuals, no formulas, no easy answers. The right road for one is the wrong road for another…The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness.

Dr Scott Peck is known for writing perhaps the best selling self-help book in the world entitled “The Road Less Traveled”. In that book he tried to contradict a crippling sense that too many people stumbled on in adulthood: the myth that life was somehow going to be easy. He does that by simply stating the truth: that life is difficult and in order to live a meaningful life this truth needed to be accepted, faced, and embraced. Life wasn’t about happiness but about meaning.

In his sequel, “Further Along the Road Less Traveled” he faces the second great American myth: the belief that the answer to our problems in life can be cured if we just simplified it all! His counter to this myth is by simply stating the truth: that life is complex and to get life right this truth needed to be accepted, faced, and embraced.

As we face the immigration crises in this country and this world, these two myths: that life is somehow going to be easy and simple, are crippling our response. For some the answer has been simply “secure the border at all cost.” And for others the answer is some form of “let them in!” Neither works. To take the hard line that president Trump has taken has traumatized thousands of people especially our most vulnerable…our children. And to tear down the wall and open the borders would overwhelm our nation and flood this country’s resources to the point of a break down.

At issue here is the complex problems we all face individually and as a community: us vs other ; boundaries vs compassion; and scarcity vs abundance.

To be honest, I struggle every day, in my personal life, with every one of these issues. Much of my life struggle is this balance of my time and resources and how much to give to others. I watched my father give so much in “boundless” love and “border-less” loving that he often failed to love the ones closest to him and, to be honest, lived life exhausted and burned out. My father and mother took in needy folk without hesitation and our family of ten often suffered because of it. At the same time some of the most meaningful times in my life, some of the most transformative times of my life, have happened because of that compassion my mother and father had for others.

As we all deal with these complex issues, the God we have come to know through Jesus and in scripture, seems to consistently side with those who are the most vulnerable. The passages in our scriptures with this emphasis are countless. This week as I was praying for all of us as we work toward, argued, and wrestled with this, I turned to the Upper Room Discipline, a devotion I read, and the passage of the day was Psalm 9. Here is an excerpt:

9 The LORD is a safe place for the oppressed a safe place in difficult times. 10 Those who know your name trust you because you have not abandoned any who seek you, LORD. 11 Sing praises to the LORD, who lives in Zion! Proclaim his mighty acts among all people! 12 Because the one who avenges bloodshed remembers those who suffer; the LORD hasn’t forgotten their cries for help.

What I take from this is that whatever my answer to these issues are, that I know here God is. God resides where the vulnerable cry. God insists that I take people in need seriously. That I treat them with all the respect and dignity I possibly can. And that I try to do my best to do the least harm and the most good to as many people I can. A difficult and complex task, but the task God puts before us. I pray we stop debating and begin to work on the best solution we can as soon as we can. We can and are called to do better!

Your friend and pastor, struggling with you,

Tim Schaaf