Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)
“This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘we will not walk in it.’
This passage in Jeremiah is fascinating and really makes me think. I picture in my mind a traveler who sets out alone on a pilgrimage to find “the good way.” Someone who feels restless and dissatisfied, unfulfilled in the world and their place in it; searching for meaning and significance. I imagine this traveler is tired, dusty, thirsty and longing for some place to rest, because the journey has been a long one. A lifetime.
At last, up ahead our traveler spies a crossroads where different paths intersect and head off in completely different directions. I see an oasis at the crossroads; some sheltering trees where our sojourner can stop for a bit and think about which path to take. Where does each one lead? What if our traveler chooses the wrong way? Will the journey just continue on and on and on without leading to what they want most, which is peace, safety and rest for a soul that is banged up, wounded and weary; cautious and longing for healing, simplicity and to just belong?
I can imagine our weary traveler surveying each path, looking at the options and wondering what to do, which way to go. One path looks wider and more comfortable, the other path looks narrower and a little rockier. What to do? Suddenly our traveler notices, hidden in the shadows of a small grove of trees, a man reclining in the cool shade. Feeling relief that there is someone here who may know the answer and can give guidance, the traveler heads over and asks, “where is the good way? Which path do I take?” The man looks at the weary soul in front of him and asks, “what is it that you want? These paths lead in very different directions, my friend, so choose wisely. One, the good way, will lead you on a more narrow path, with areas that are not easy to navigate and that will have obstacles you will have to go around or over or through. There will be mountains and there will be valleys. The going will not always be easy, but the end result will bring you more joy and life than you could imagine.There will be beauty along this path, but pain, too. You will find rest for your weary soul, but you must follow the One who leads you and not stray off on your own. You will be guided every step of the way, but you will not be in control. This path has been followed by many before you, their foot steps can be seen and followed along the way. The traveler likes the idea of beauty and rest, but pain and obstacles, giving up control? “What about the other path?, the weary traveler asks, “Tell me about it.” The man sighs and begins speaking, “the other path, well, it will seem easier, smoother, wider. It will seem to be well traveled and it will allow you to chart the course, go your way. On this path, there are many crossroads you will have to navigate and you will be doing it on your own. You will choose which ways to go and you will reap whatever consequences come of these choices. The footsteps of those who went before you will be smudged, obscure and not easy to see. Those other travelers will not offer you their wisdom; they will concentrating on themselves and making their own way. You must choose your path; the time is now.”
Our traveler has a lot to think about. The thought of having a guide to navigate those rough places and obstacles sounds inviting; to not be alone, but to have Someone there to guide, to lead and who knows the way. Peace and rest are promised at the end of this path and there will be beauty, but also pain. Beauty in the pain? The other path sounds great as well. Easy, smooth, wide. Obstacles yes, but the ability to decide how to navigate them and being able to say at the end of the path, that you arrived because of your own wisdom. But, the man didn’t say that at the end of this path there would be rest and healing. He didn’t say what will be promised at the end.
So what do you choose, fellow traveler? When you come to the crossroads, which path will you choose? The one with the beautiful promise of rest for your weary, searching soul, or is the pull of being in control and having a wider, easier path calling out to you? Will you take the paths that are well worn with the sandals of those men and women who chose Jesus and went before us? The ancient paths with the footprint of the One who already knows your path and exactly how to navigate you along? Or will you see that path laid before you and say, “No, I will not walk in it.”