Our diocesan office in Spokane is about 130 miles north of my home in Walla Walla. It’s a drive I make regularly with two routes to choose from. The longer one by forty miles is mostly freeway. At seventy miles an hour it crosses the intermountain plateau. To me it’s a boring landscape. The shorter route is two lane highway that twists and turns through the Palouse, down through the canyon like valley of the Snake River, up the other side, and through towns and dots on the map such as Dixie, Dayton, Dodge, Dusty, and Colfax. That’s the way I like to go.
There is a place on the drive back where the road crosses a ridge, and on a clear day I can see our Blue Mountains with still two hours of driving to go. For some reason I’m always a bit surprised at the sight. “That’s home,” I say to myself, “I can almost touch it, but it’s so far away and I won’t be there for two more hours.” The road falls away into another valley, and I won’t see the mountains again until I am almost there.
It reminds me of a piece from John Donne, and, now that I want to offer an exact citation, I cannot find my collected works of Donne, which is always close at hand, but seems to be hiding somewhere in another galaxy at the moment. Anyway, it’s a portion of one of his satires and observes that God’s truth can be seen in plain sight on the top of a mountain, but the path to it is a twisting, difficult one with truth often hidden from view. Nevertheless, the trek is worth it. In like manner, a life of following Christ can often lose sight of the ultimate goal. The way of the cross may be the way of life and peace, but it sometimes feels more like the way of defeat and grief with no end in sight, and nothing ahead but more plodding steps to take.
Sometimes I have to be reminded that, like the road home from Spokane, and Donne’s mountain trail to God’s truth, the way of the cross is sure and certain. I will arrive if I stay on it, but maybe today I’ll just sit by the river and watch life go by. I’ll get back on the trail tomorrow.