Today’s post, “Following Jesus: The Road Untraveled,” is by Deborah B. Edgar, an MFT (that’s Marriage and Family Therapist) psychotherapist in private practice in Pasadena, CA. She is in hot pursuit of her PhD at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Depth Psychology and Hebrew Bible (which confirms my experience that people like me who work in Hebrew Bible need psychotherapy, but I suspect Deborah means something different). Her dissertation’s working title is “The Sacred Presence in the Healing of Trauma: The Courage to Walk On.” Deborah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, if the Spirit so moves, or through her website The Unselfish Journey.
Perhaps on our Christian journey we go from the road traveled, to the road less traveled, to the road untraveled.
When the “sidewalk ends” (yes, I am thinking of that wonderful graphic on the front of Shel Silverstein’s book) we look down and around, and gulp!, find ourselves face to face with a moment in time—our time—where no one has gone before.
Not even Jesus.
There is no preset plan, a road “we must find or else…” All we’ve got is spirit in union and communion with Spirit. Spirit whispers peace in the unknown. Spirit speaks when there are no words. Spirit defends you to you, to others, to God. Spirit beckons courage to remain congruent with who you are and fosters the creativity within, which, by definition, has no preset mold.
In sum, Spirit both protects and urges this image of God in you: you are not God’s robot, but an organic, dynamic, alive, endlessly creating embodied being.
I bet I started to lose you at “not even Jesus.” And then even the utterance of the possibility of there being “no preset plan” sent you to your knees praying for another sister who has very near lost her salvation—hopefully it is not too late.
Please pray, by all means, but hear me out. When Jesus says “follow me,” I wonder what he is calling forth? I have always thought of it as the road less traveled, the “straight and narrow” verses the “broad road.” And I have Scripture to prove this to be so.
But what if the “straight and narrow” was just the beginning? What if the beginning was a set time, kind of like in Batman Begins, where Bruce Wayne trains in the Kingdom of Bhutan before returning to Gotham to live out his calling?
On the “straight and narrow” we learn a new landscape, a re-languaging, a re-experiencing of life in a new way, with a different set of assumptions, a healing, where we become familiar with new depths in our being we would never have guessed were there.
It’s all kinda like, eh-hem, a re-birth. Oh yeah, that—thanks St. John. Wherever our metaphorical Kingdom of Bhutan’s might be, a fundamental wrestling is done between old and new: what had been formed in us (old) is now being reformed through an ordeal. And that ordeal is Homeresque in quality. How could it not be? Our egos are being relativised.
We all know from the Gospels that that is the road we need to choose. And some of us actually do (which is hard to believe!). And then perhaps, once equipped, re-formed, and basically freed by the burdens of ego—dying to ourselves, as Jesus said—we come to where that road less traveled ends.
A fundamental change has happened: we can actually feel it at a deep embodied level. Subsequently, we look up and out, and behold: the road untraveled, our untraveled road, opens before us.
I know. All you can imagine this to be is a cutting off from Jesus. Finally, it is all about ME. But it is not that at all.
Remember, ego is not front and center anymore—we’ve done the hard work (better, God has done the hard work) of relativising it already. No, our union and communion with the Triune God does not end. Rather, we live in greater freedom of being within the oceanic and fearless life of the Trinity, the intimacy with Jesus and the Father than Jesus promised.
It would be to live now as we were truly created to live, as if Jesus actually effected something real for us on the cross and the empty tomb. Behold a new creation! The old has gone, and the new is here—thanks St. Paul.
Get this: if we are re-made in the image of the risen Christ who is creator of all things new, then we have the awesome fun and terrifying responsibility of creating something altogether new in the world.
One way to look at this would be to imagine following Jesus to the brink of the road less traveled—and what an ordeal that has been! (Step 1). Step 2: seeing the untraveled road before you, getting freaked out a little (okay, a lot!), and waiting for him to take the lead per usual, as with any Master to Servant relational covenant would have it. But instead, Step 3, hearing him beckon us to take it from there, to lead, to create the path, to follow our spirit, to be fully who we are, all within the boundary of his love.
Where can I go from your Spirit? (Ps. 139) Answer: nowhere.
He’s there. He never leaves us. He goes with us. You see, nothing of the road less traveled is lost; it is rather now second-nature, and it is part of the fundamental and essential material used to build our untraveled road, my untraveled road. There is still the wrestling to some extent with the old—let’s call this ego flair-ups—but it is not the struggle that it used to be. It is altogether a new place in time—our time, and no one else’s.
It comes down to this: I am putting forth the idea that we actually can come into a mature relationship with Jesus, like the best of marriages, where there is a mutual respect for the other—a true playing out of union and communion. He fundamentally trusts us, and moves with us; and we fundamentally trust him, and we move with him.
And we live in that dance, as we continually make room for one another. Truly, we are no longer Master and Servant, but Friends. Thanks St. John (again.) Really. Concretely. In the here and now. Fellow-sojourners. He remains the “One in whom we live and move and have our being”: absolutely. (Oh, thanks St. Plato.)
There is no going back to the broad road, the road traveled. That’s out of the question. Indeed, we have tasted the feast of the road less traveled: how could we settle for Applebee’s or White Castle ever again? I mean really. He is Alpha and Omega, he is the Beginning and the End. But now to get to the End, we must take the road untraveled.
Step 4. Who’s in?