I love to hike.
Being a Colorado native, I swear it is a part of my DNA and as necessary for living as air & water. Since I'm a parent with two small children and hiking isn't something I have done often in recent years, that might explain why I feel half-dead some days.
When I talk about hiking, I'm talking about hopping in a car and driving to where asphalt gives way to gravel, and even the gravel runs out into solid dirt. From there it's passing through a set of Forest Service poles onto a well-worn trail that leads to smaller paths, the skyways of wonder and marvel. Paths like the one pictured where evidence of previous travellers is limited to a single-file swath and nothing more. Only the majesty of God's creation lies beyond its borders. The terrain isn't level; it pitches with steep gains or declines that leave the lungs burning, heart hammering against the ribs, and legs quaking in desperation for rest.
It's this feeling of bodily devastation that lets me know I'm alive.
Surrounded by grasses that brush my legs, flowers opened to greet as I pass by, I bask in the pantheon of color, sound, and aromas found in these places where God feels so very present. Enveloped by the beauty, I forget how much time it took, and the hurt becomes a welcome toll of admission.
While there are many beautiful places where pavement meets parking lots, leading to gently rolling sidewalks allowing a multitude of people at once to enjoy the beauty of nature in Colorado, the ease lacks the soul found in the struggle. People are able to say, "I came, I saw, I left". All this in less than half a days investment in the moment.
Perhaps this understanding is why Jesus uses the illustration of roads.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 NIV
Thinking to back when Jesus said this, the Roman Empire ruled the level, wide roads made for ease of access, linking their occupied villages with townships & cities in a vast network still considered to be a marvel of civil engineering. Roads designed with forced dependency on the Empire in mind, where time is of the essence.
Contrast that with the paths carved in hillsides by local shepherds, slowly making their way to what they know are good grazing grounds that The LORD has formed and sustained since long before the Romans came.
In my life, I have most often found that the best things lay at the end of a long path where endurance of pursuit is evident. Where the journey leaves an impact on you and where you've been. It creates a pathway for others to follow that doesn't lessen the strain on them, but lets them know "if someone else has done it, then so can I".
I know that is true for me. There have been people like that I've followed in the past, and those I follow now who have made a journey and guide me now in different ways. In marriage. With finances. Through life. Currently, I am in the midst of a trek learning to be a different kind of disciple and minister in how I approach relationships and resources.
I believe this is one of the fundamental truths to fully understanding what Jesus is getting at when He says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6). He was the first to begin the path because He IS the true path that brings us life, and following Him isn't easy.
But it is beautiful and worth it.
I pray you journey well.