An “Ask Mac” blog post, responding to a question from within the CornerstoneSF community. Have your own question about faith or God? Submit it here.
This question, although a good one, contains several hidden assumptions we must acknowledge before diving in:
- That life is essentially a progressive journey to success or enlightenment
- We must pursue God and “truth” through self-effort; and
- No matter the form of our pursuit, it will be successful even if it is directly contradictory to many, or even all other “paths.”
That’s a heavy load of assumptions, based mostly on fashionable ideas that are especially attractive in Western cultures.
For me, I wish every road I took led swiftly to Paris. But I know a number of roads lead to places like Barstow, Palm Desert and Fresno, and I would not like to end up in any of these destinations even briefly. (What, can I say … I am of Swedish/Scottish stock and am a ”heat wuss.”)
On one hand, I can understand why people refer to life as a journey. Every person has a unique story or narrative. We see the linear timelines of our lives as anything from a progressive journey forward to a series of disjointed stories that lead us into situations both good and bad. This is our attempt to make some sense of the lives we mostly live according to self-rule. None of us are immune to this.
But on a larger scale, I see the human story as one of both great peril and rescue. We all face death and the existential threat of meaninglessness. As self-conscious animals, we find this reality so maddening that we invent grand "meaning-systems" and cultures to produce supposedly lasting meaning.
What we really need is not a fictitious story or an imaginary purpose, but rescue from death and meaninglessness. Whatever “path” we have wandered into, we need to be rescued from it – we need someone willing to come after us and bring us safely home.
Good News for all Paths
We call the Christian message “gospel,” which means “good news.” It is news of a great rescue. It is news of God’s conquering what we cannot – sin and death – and offering rescue.
But the best news is that we don’t find this in our journeying to God, but in God journeying to us.
The name “Jesus” comes from the Hebrew name “Yeshua,” which means “Yahweh to the rescue.” The Apostle John writes of the eternal “Logos” through whom the world was made and Who was “with God and was God” (John 1:1-3). Later, John says this same Logos “pitched His tent” (John 1:14) – became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus journeyed to us.
God came to rescue us in the flesh, as a man, in Jesus the God/Man.
We do not need to search for God so much as to stop deciding who God should be, allowing God to come and find us.
In biblical faith, there are no roads to God; self-effort is contrary to grace. We cannot earn it, become smart enough or good enough, or pay for our own sins. We can only surrender to love – a love that seeks the lost. And we are all lost – if you doubt this, read your favorite news stream for five minutes.
Visualize this: There are no roads that reach a peak where God supposedly resides. Instead, you are on your road of life, but you cease your striving right where you are. Maybe you make a comfortable base camp with shade and fresh water. You let nature speak to you, for God’s Creation will speak of Him … quietly. Wait for Him to come to you. Be open – truly open-minded. You’ll find this easier to do when you stop trying to earn God’s love, because you can only accept it for the gift that it is.
God’s Way Is Down, not Up
Forget empty religion. What you want is God. The only way is God’s way: down. Jesus came down to find us.
It is not a mistake that so many who come into a vital relationship with the risen Jesus do so after having exhausted all their efforts at constructing their own way, ending up in a pile of rubble. Suddenly they are open in a new way, which means they are ready to be rescued.
It is not always this way, but often. Or, it comes from a sudden distaste for the falsity of the world, the suspicion that it’s all a ruse.
No, all roads do not lead to God – many lead to despair, some to madness, and all to death. We need God to rescue us from ourselves to become our true selves. God, in Jesus, seeks us, and finds us, and brings us rescue and life.
Remain open. Ask Jesus to come. Be open to Who he is. Ask for His help. He has journeyed to meet you out of love. He will find you.