The Lord watches over the way of the righteous. Psalm 1:6
My older son Christopher was in his middle twenties when he spent a year back-packing round the world with his girl-friend. They had a great time visiting all sorts of exotic places - made me really green with envy, to be honest, as I thought about the bit of hitch-hiking I did in my student years. (Mind you, as I loftily reminded him, in my day we didn’t have mobile phones, computers, skype and all the rest; just a wad of crumpled travellers’ cheques and a few air-mail forms.)
Were we worried about them? Well, a bit concerned, of course; bad things can happen to such travellers, as we have been so sadly reminded in the past few days. But we knew there was no point in fretting.
It was rather different when he did his first big journey away from home without us...
I needed to post a letter one day, and that meant a walk of a couple of hundred yards down the road to the post-box. Christopher saw me heading off - and promptly decided that this was something he would do; and that he would do it without any company, thank you very much. I suppose he must have been about four.
I dithered, as you can imagine. Our road isn’t particularly busy, but the post-box is on the other side, and there are usually a few cars coming and going. But I knew he must have his way. So I explained very clearly how careful he must be, especially when crossing the road, and how he must come straight back.
And so began the epic journey. I, of course, stood in the doorway, craning to follow him all the way. Occasionally I lost sight of him, but then I would see his head bobbing along behind the parked cars. He reached the post-box, he stretched up to the slot, he dropped the letter in, he turned back, he stood to cross the road – look-left-look-right-look-left-look-right-look-left-look right, about ten times - and then he was back with me, his face aglow with triumph: “I did it! I did it all by my own!”
I’m sure he knew I would be watching him, but he knew nothing of what was going on in my heart. If something had gone wrong, well, of course I would have been down that road faster than Usain Bolt.
I learned that day just a tiny bit of what it must be like to be God. For as the psalmist tells us: “The Lord watches over the way of the righteous”. All right, I don’t think of God as being anxious as he does this; but I did grasp just a hint of his tender love.
To say that life is a journey is a pretty tired cliché. But the thing about clichés is that they happen to be true (which is exactly how they become clichés, for what is a cliché but a truth repeated to the point of tedium?).
So let me ask: where are you on your journey today? Are you strolling pleasantly through green fields, or battling through a thunder-storm? Are you just setting out, full of hope and optimism, or getting close to the end, perhaps a little jaded, even cynical, feeling that while you are older you don’t seem that much wiser? Are you enjoying the journey, or are you full of pain and sadness for some reason personal to you?
What matters is that, wherever you are as a Christian, God loves you and is watching over you. Your journey at the moment may be the equivalent of a little boy padding down to the post-box, or of a young man like Christopher riding a huge turtle on the Galapagos Islands; or it may be shrunk to the point where your only contact with the outside world is a small window through which you can see the sky.
But as long as a new day of life is given there is a God-given purpose in that day, and there is an opportunity to feel and even enjoy the presence of God and to do his will.
I was hearing recently about a man who has been confined to his home for many years; yet such is the peace and radiance of his faith that people ask to be taken to see him to feel the love of God in him. He does good not by doing anything, but just by being. His journey remains satisfying to him and a blessing to others.
And one day - let’s not forget - there will be journey’s end, when “we shall be like [Christ], for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3). We’re heading for home.
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for watching over me step by step of my journey. Help me to trust you in all the circumstances o f life, especially when the way is hard. Amen.