Walks into the forest have mostly been a comfort to me. I like to think of myself as adventuresome, not like Indiana Jones or something, but one who is usually drawn to the road less traveled.
Not all forests of my life have been filled with trees, some were built of concrete and steel, others were winding paths in my heart that darkened my mind with questions.
What comes after that bend in the path? What happens if I take that alleyway? Can I cut through the trees and bushes to my right and get home quicker?
Recently however, I have discovered that although I am a person who enjoys the challenge of walking into the unknown, what I have seen in my heart is that I generally want to pick the time and location of the journey. When it comes before I feel prepared or in a place not of my choosing, then, walks in the forest are not my favorite thing, and I have some deep and unsettled feelings about them. I believe the anxiety stems from this thought, If I go down this path, will I be able to find my way home?
To some degree, I think that this was what was on Thomas' mind when he asked this question in John 14...
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
The disciples and Jesus had gone many places together. Sometimes the journey was affirming, exciting and inspiring, but sometimes it was also hard, cold, dark, hurried and fearful. The one preserving thought had always been this: As long as Jesus is with us, He will always lead us home.
But now the shadow comes. In the verses before those quoted above, Jesus has just revealed that he is going to leave them. He will be going ahead of them to his father's house to prepare a place for them. He says that He will come back to get them and that they actually already know the way to where He is going. Still, Jesus gives no directions on how to get there. At least nothing that refers to geography. His only directional help comes in verse 6, "I am the way..." And it is enfolded by just one additional phrase....Trust in me.
What is the route? "I am the way...Trust in me."
What are the landmarks? "I am the way...Trust in me."
Is that to the North, South, East or West? "I am the way...Trust in me."
Can I get that on mapquest or GPS? "I am the way...Trust in me."
How long should it take to get there? "I am the way...Trust in me."
Phew. Even for someone who mostly likes forest wanderings, this seems very little instruction to go on. It's one thing to deal with the journey and have faith when the silhouette of Jesus is walking the trail before you. It's something completely different when He says I will go on ahead of you and prepare for your arrival, but you will walk the rest on your own.
As "edgy" as I wish to think my life has been up until now, the truth is I have never strayed far enough away from home that I didn't think I could retrace my steps and return. That has been my safety net; my memory of the journey past, and how I could follow it's trail of bread crumbs back to where things began.
Poor Thomas....Doubting Thomas...(the guy who has had to live through history with an adjective instead of a proper title before his name)...I think this was his major point of struggle also. He kept up with the rest of group as long as he could see the way home, if only in his mind, and now Jesus had removed that reference point as well. Now the whole thing was tied to nothing but two ideas, held together by someone who just told them He would be leaving.
"I am the way....Trust in me."
That's all we get? That's all there is? Is it enough to walk on? Enough for us to find life in? Enough to have peace? There is a forest walk up ahead for all of us....somewhere, sometime down the road. We might have advance knowledge of its coming, but maybe not. I guess I am hearing Him say to me that the answers to these questions have to do with the depth of my relationship to the one giving the instruction and my belief that He will be as faithful in my future as He has been in my past. Even in the moments that I was deeper into the forest than I realized at the time.
Uncertainty is an empty well, waiting to be filled with something; hope, fear, perseverance, anger, faith....That empty well is me, and what it is filled with rests a lot on my own choosing.