I find it comforting that I don’t have to learn everything on my own; I can look it up. I can research anything. And with my smart phone, I can look it up right now. No waiting, fewer unknowns, and less guessing. It’s a great time to be alive. Of course, looking up the singer of a certain pop song from the 1970s, or the origination of a physics quote, or even the meaning of cliché, is more fun and games than researching serious life work. Understanding how to live life is a harder search.
This week I have been reminded once again how many important things I didn’t have to learn from scratch. Like whether to go to church, or read the Bible, or pour my life into God’s work. I didn’t have to figure out the answers to all of that because I had living examples in my mom and dad.
I am writing about this because my mother passed away this week, about 2:30 AM Wednesday morning, after suffering from Alzheimer’s for the past four years. In the past few weeks she began to fade quickly until she finally just dwindled away. It was time.
Almost immediately I thought of this verse from Jeremiah 6:16, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk it in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
I like this verse because it paints a picture of someone searching for a better life. And the search centers on “the ancient paths,” which for me, represents family. I didn’t have to bushwhack my way learning the best way to live, it was lived out before me by two faithful followers of Christ – my mom and dad. And beyond them, my grandparents and aunts and uncles. I have a mental image of my family tree filled with row after row of people, all of them walking with God and preparing the path for me. It gives me confidence. Cyndi and I are not in this life alone, we have a long history behind us.
Another phrase I like from the verse in Jeremiah says, “Stand at the crossroads and look.” God is calling for a pause in the action, asking us to stop in our relentless pursuit of the future, to stop and ponder our way. God is telling us to stop at the crossroads, at the obvious point of decision.
It requires action on our part to follow Jeremiah 6:16. We have to stop moving. We also have to look and ask “where the good way is.”
Not all ancient paths are good ones. We don’t have to hear very many old stories before learning to be choosy about following someone’s footsteps. We discover which roads not to take and which mistakes not to make.
But by looking and asking, we also learn the wisdom of consistency. Many of those ancient paths became paths because they were tried and found to be true. Those are the paths we should remember and follow.
The final expectation from Jeremiah 6:16 is to “walk in it.” It isn’t enough to identify the best path to follow; we have to commit to it. We have to act on the knowledge, we have to walk.
I hope to spend the rest of my life walking the path forward – learning new writers, new teachers, new language, new skills - and at the same time, facing back into the past – remembering the old writers, old teachers, old languages, and old skills.
I have a head start on that path. I was raised by two people who tried to do the right thing, following God every day. And because they did, I can enjoy my own walk with God today. Maybe I would have found Jesus on my own had I not been raised by this powerful family, but I’m glad I didn’t have to do it that way.
And so I promise – I commit – to sharing the ancient paths I’ve learned, to passing along the good ways, and more importantly, to living my own life for God, quietly and dependably, doing the right things, for the sake of my own children and grandchildren. I can do no less. I owe it to my mom.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32