I grew up in a neighborhood that once was farmland owned by an old and weathered man named Hank. Everything about our neighborhood was new … except for Hank.
Though his land was gone, Hank and his broken-down barn and little white farmhouse remained just down the road. And I loved going there. Lots of kids loved going there. The path into his yard was a happy one. We played in Hank’s barn as if it belonged to us. We chased chickens, climbed the rafters, fed his horses and even jumped from high beams into the hay piles beneath us. Hank never said much to us, but his kind nod and smile seemed to give us permission to enjoy ourselves. He was glad to share his day with us.
There was one other old home in our subdivision and it belonged to Hank’s sister Bessie.
She had also owned part of the land that now was ours. Bessie still lived in the tall tottering house at the end of my street. With so many overgrown trees surrounding the dour home, you would never know it was there. A dusty path made its way from the asphalt street into the shadow of the trees, past the front door, and back out onto the street. I didn’t know anyone who dared walk on that dark path. Instead, we would speed down the path on our bikes just to catch a glimpse of the foreboding home that looked dismal even in the daytime. I don’t know what we would have done if we actually saw the occupant, but we never did. Bessie chose instead to wander our streets in the evening, a frail figure in tattered clothing.
As I grew older, I began to realize the contrasts between these two homes and the people that lived in them. Light and dark. Joy and sorrow. Laughter and loneliness. The paths into Hank and Bessie’s world were two very different paths. Today I know that these contrasts can paint a spiritual picture for us to take to heart. It has to do with the life we will end up living. It reminds us that we have a path to choose. The outcome of our choice will be like night and day.
When I was a teenager some wonderful people began to teach me that if I wanted a life that was true and purposeful, I would need to get on God’s path. In order to do that, I would need to grab God’s map and begin to study it. I saved my money and bought a Bible. I learned that God’s Word talks about paths. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105). The people surrounding me believed this and led me to believe it as well. The duty of the church is to train its members to believe this. This is what makes a church a light on a hill. When God’s people take God’s Word to heart, beautiful things happen. We impact the people that God puts on our path. We even impact people we didn’t know, in places we never even planned. We ourselves are impacted because the realities of God are living in our hearts.
Between the pages of Scripture is the abundant life every person has the opportunity to live.
Those who choose to forge through life without God’s map are making the choice to walk a dark and shadowy path … a little like the path to Bessie’s house. Those who choose to journey through life with the words of God as their guide, are making the choice to walk a path of light and life … a little like the path to Hank’s house. This is God’s desire. This is our joy.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. -Psalm 16:11