Going home is shorter, thank God, than we fear.
The beach was there, so we walked, then the Gulf, so we went, and then the pier, jumping from stone to stone, so we wandered out to the edge looking for the horizon. The weather shifted and when we turned, suddenly home seemed far away.
We made it, of course, and for those younger than the two-of-us, or for many of you, the way would not have seemed long at all. We were in no danger and we made it back easily, but for a moment the road home seemed long. As we hopped over the stones, we came midway to a life-ring, in case one of us slipped into the not-safe-for-swimming seas. The ring looked like many gulls had pecked away the cover and a good bit of the substance and so we did not put much trust in that ring. The harder the waves hit the stones, the longer the pier seemed.
No real danger, naturally, just a sense that we carelessly had kept going where, we suddenly realized, nobody else was going. We questioned our wisdom, not for the first time in nearly thirty-five years of marriage.
And soon we were safe at our destination.
The road was shorter, the road is always shorter, than fear makes it. If someone with excellent technical skills measures the way back from this picture, the distance will be embarrassingly short, but for a moment this did not seem true. This suggests a sort-of-philosophical truth: there are two ways a road can be long. There is the actual length: somewhere under one hundred miles and with some sort of unpleasant conditions and I am unable walk there. There is surely an actual number. There is also a road that seems daunting, but is in fact easy. For a moment, I doubt my ability to make it, but the fear is irrational and I need only take a moment, keep calm, and carry on. The distance, in fact, never changes, but the distance in my perception counts, at least if the goal is to get home.
Naturally, some preachers make a mistake and suggest that the trek through the desert, the Spartan run some of my colleagues do, is possible to me if I only “believe.” This is not faith, but madness. I cannot, at this point, even dream of a Spartan run. I need to know the truth: the distance, my capacity, and if I can do it.
A lack of confidence can make a short walk seem long. Overconfidence can make an impossible task seem doable. My perception must come together with reality. When we go forward in life, heading toward the Paradise of God, the way seems long. The way is long, but not long. How can this be?
Paradise, timelessness, is just a death away. Death is the door to home. Yet between conception and death, there is more than a few years of journey. This seems long, though it is not, in fact. One hundred and twenty years, very old, is nothing in the light of the eternity of God. We go and we go and then suddenly, the hour of death, suddenly, and after we are there ten thousand years, bright shining as sun, it seems we hardly began our journey before we were singing God’s praise.
The road home is shorter than we think and better than we think. One heart beat missed and we are there. A trumpet can resound, the Lord descend, and immediately it is well with our souls. Sometimes too we just hop back over the stones, cross the beach, and end up home. The road always is shorter than hopelessness suggests.