Philippians 3:12-14 has this to say: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
I remember a number of Blues’ Singers repeating this line: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” That’s pretty sad. But sometimes life seems to be that way. We’ve all lost friends to the wages of sin: Death. Kids with cancer, old people with dementia, life just seems, or maybe it is, more challenging.
There’s a story of a young boy living in a slum who was out in the marketplace where all the vendors had their carts out with food and other wares to sell. Typically, it was hot, dusty, and dirty. He was sitting in the dirt playing some made-up game and noticed people would stop, look over his head and just kind of moan and walk away.
He heard one man mumble, “I just wish I could get there.” So he looked behind him and there were the mountains, with the highest ones still having snow at the top. He had heard the stories of the “place” in the mountains where life was beautiful, bountiful and brimming with blessings. He stared at it for a minute or so and thought, “I can never get up there, out of this dirt and dust.” And at the end of that thought was another one, “Why not? If I stay here in the dirt for 3 days and don’t go, in 3 days I’ll still be in the dirt. If I start walking now, in 3 days I will be safely up to that place in the mountains.
So the boy started walking and thought, “Even to fail in the attempt would be infinitely
more preferable than this existence in the dirt and misery.” He only had a little bit of food to bring, but water was abundant so he wasn’t worried. After a few days he realized that this place in the mountains was much further than it looked from the dusty village, but all along the way he had found berries to eat and other plants that he knew were safe to consume. There were steep cliffs with deep dropoffs, boulders, wild animals and the things that he imagined were even worse. But he continued.
After many years had passed, he had grown into a young man, strong, knowledgeable and wise about the way to the bountiful place ahead. Every day he had what he needed to live upon–food and water to meet his needs, shelter to sleep in at night and even those things that he had imagined and scared him in the beginning had now become tame and his friends.
The young man grew older and feebler until at last he was barely able to put one foot in front of the other. He would never go back–he’d rather die climbing to the place than to roll down the mountain and back into the dirt. Early that morning he was certain that this would be his last sunrise, but then saw another traveler coming down the path and asked, “Sir, where are you going.” Much to his surprise, the man called him by his name and said, “I’ve come down to carry you the rest of the way.” Falling into the kind man’s arms, he was carried to the place, the place that was beautiful, bountiful and brimming with blessings.
What seemed like but a few seconds, he was there, and there in front of him were people for as far as he could see, all bowing down to the man carrying him. The kind man sat him down, and his strength, health and youth were instantly restored and all the people came around to welcome him. He asked, “Who is this man who has carried me,” and they told him, “He is our King.”
We who follow Christ Jesus were all like this young boy, sitting in the dirt playing made-up games. Then one day, like the boy, we realized there was a better place, a better way to live, so we started climbing up our own mountains. Along the way the foothills grew steeper, the valleys much deeper, the boulders blocking our way abundant, and we noticed that many who had begun the journey with us were nowhere to be found. But we still carry with us our desire to be free, free from violence and hatred, free from our fears, free from rejection, betrayal and free to be with the One Who truly loves and cares for us. We will get there, but it will require that we put one foot in front of the other
day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year, always keeping our eyes on the King Who will one day scoop us up into His arms and carry us home.
I began my climb to the bountiful place in an Eastern Temple where Paramahansa Yogananda was the founder. It’s just up the road from where I now live.
I found these cuties on my path
He was not a Christian, but he did say this and I think it’s worth repeating:
“Those who take up the path for its glamor, expecting only blissful visions and a
comfortable, mossy trail strewn with rose blossoms of divine consolation, become discouraged when they find how often God neglects the moss and roses in favor of thorns.
For those, however, who cling to their purpose with devotion, taking the path calmly one day at a time, no test is ever too great. Obstructions are seen, then, as blessings, for they provide the strength one needs to reach the heights.”
Many of my long-ago friends gave up and no longer climb. I pray you won’t. I pray you will see that the trials of the trip are far outweighed by the beautiful, bountiful and brimming blessings that come from our Father in heaven. If you are feeling beaten down, you know how to find us–let’s talk, or better yet, let’s pray. He’s waiting for you…