by Berry Simpson
Last weekend, while wrapping up my third book, I took a break and watched the movie “The Way.” Before the weekend was over, I’d watched it three times.
The Way, released in 2010, is a collaboration between Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez. It tells the story of Tom Avery, an American ophthalmologist who comes to St. Jean Pied de Port, France to collect the remains of his adult son, killed in the Pyrenees in a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. In a surprising combination of grief and homage to his son, Tom decides to walk the ancient spiritual trail where his son died.
In a flashback scene we witness the strained relationship between Tom’s adult son, Daniel, who wants to travel and experience the world, and his father, a widower, who wants his only child to get serious, settle down, and choose a life similar to his own.
Daniel said, “You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live it.” I liked that line right away even though I mostly disagreed with it.
I think we do have to choose a life. We choose every day whether to follow God, or love our wives, or live healthy and nutritious. We choose whether to follow God’s calling. We have to choose our path and our direction.
For example, all the pilgrims in the movie chose to walk the Way of St. James. Including Daniel. They had a variety of reasons, but none of them ended up there accidently. Even Tom Avery, who hadn’t planned to walk, made a conscious choice.
What Tom didn't choose was the profound effect this trip would have on him. An inexperienced trekker, he soon discovered that he would not be alone on his journey. On the Camino de Santiago, Tom met other pilgrims from around the world, each with their own issues, each looking for greater meaning in their lives. Tom learned that it was better for his own heart to travel with a group than tackle the journey alone.
He also learned that the journey itself was most important, not just the destination. In the beginning he walked as fast as he could, just to cover the ground, get it over with, and finish as quickly as possible. He was just doing his duty. But as his pilgrimage progressed, he slowed down and enjoyed the trip with his friends. He allowed his heart to change.
What I realized at the end of the movie, and the reason I watched it over again and again, was this: we may choose the journey, but we can’t choose the meaning. We choose our path, but not the message, the lesson, the impact, or the changes that will come from it. We choose a life, but we then have to live life as it comes. We have to live out the changes in our heart.
Maybe we choose to let Jesus make his home in our heart, giving him permission to remodel our heart to his liking … but we don’t get to pick the stories he’ll use, the adventures he’ll take advantage of, or the person we’ll become. We have to trust him with the changes he’ll make in our heart.
So during this past year I’ve spent a lot of time inside Ephesians 3:17-19, working on my book. The verses conclude with this promise, And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.
I spent most of my Christian life assuming that being filled with God meant I would have some sort of spiritual superpower, greater insight, or even magical teaching skills. I was certain the reason God wanted to fill me with himself was so I could perform better. I didn’t appreciate that he wanted to fill me with himself just to be together with me, to take me further down the way. While I have been intentional about choosing a life, I had no way to anticipate the changes Jesus would make in my heart.
I pray that you will choose the path God has laid out before you, and that you will allow the changes he wants to make along the way. Let’s choose our life, and let’s live our life.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
Journal entry 082312: Choosing the way