It has been three months since I have traveled. During this time, all my contemplative strolls – my 8:18 walks – have been on familiar streets. Today, I decided to change that, driving to a nearby town I don’t know well.
Starting at Broadway, I notice an alley. Alleys give the unvarnished truth about a town or city, and this one promises to speak volumes. For it is the longest, straightest backstreet I have ever seen. In a gesture of honesty (or obviousness), someone has named it Long Alley.
At least I won’t get lost. I decide to follow it to the end.
It is early in the morning, so I am alone. But I have the strong sense of invitation, as if God planned this outing, guided me to this lane and is ready to show me something. That is what I’ve been missing without knowing it – that sense of adventuring with Jesus, the anticipation of an internal dialogue with him.
In my mind are the verses that impressed me yesterday in my reading in Isaiah:
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:20–21)
This resonates deeply with me. I note the theme of seeing and hearing (so central to what I’m doing in this blog). And I recognize that my longing for a Teacher who walks behind and instructs along the path is what I have been missing of late.
Life isn’t a long, straight path. (Though it is hard to find off the broad way.) We can wander from God’s will without his whispers in our ears. And his word is not just a guide, it is a command. Walk in it. Keep moving. Today, God points to two things to remind me what happens when we stop.
This house is a mass of ivy. All the windows are hidden. Only the door remains. How easy it is to be lured off the path into self-interest, particularly when one gets older. But closing off the world means shutting out the experiences through which Jesus speaks.
I find in a weathered wall of flaking paint a rough heart. It reminds me of how cynicism and bitterness (particularly from church-based adversity) can lead us to stop walking. And stop listening.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. I am reminded, in John 16, that the disciples were greatly troubled that Jesus, the Teacher that walked with them, was leaving them. But Jesus told them to rejoice because “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (v. 12)
What a joy it is to walk with our Teacher.
Our long ally on Long Alley.
Thank you, Lord, for being that voice on the road, gently steering us into a life that’s purposeful and productive, accomplishing what you’ve willed for each of us to do. Spirit, speak to us. Direct us. And keep us moving.
Reader: What practices do you have that help you hear God’s voice?