The Road goes ever on- Look, See, Pray

My love for books and reading began early. Before I started at St Nicholas Infant’s School my Mum had taught me to read confidently which gave me a head start. Before long I had finished all the books the school had… and a pattern of life was settled. To me, reading has been a gift and a blessing. Books sparked my imagination, opened doors to learning, gave hours of entertainment, and continue to be a huge part of my life.

At grammar school, a wet lunchtime found me in the School Library. Browsing curiously, I picked up the middle volume of “Lord of the Rings” and dived in. Despite starting in the wrong place, I was hooked. I read the first volume second, and then demolished the third book as quickly as I could. (Sorry if that shocks those who cannot imagine reading them out of order!)

“Lord of the Rings” is a Great Quest, a struggle of good and evil, a long and dangerous journey by an unlikely hero. This quote was one of the ideas that held my attention:

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

– J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Fellowship of the Ring”

The idea of an open Road going to an unknown destination has stayed with me ever since. I developed a love for the outdoors, the wild country, hills and forests – and eventually mountains. Wide open spaces, fresh winds, sun on the face and soft rain on my back… sounds very romantic! Naturally, actual mountains with gale-force winds and horizontal driving rain are a bit different! But, given a choice of the city or a National Park, my first choice has remained the same.

Fiction has a wonderful way of re-imagining life with a few differences, limited only by the author’s plan and the reader’s eager mind.

Fiction and fantasy writing can also illustrate and explain the hard facts of real life.

One truth every walker must admit: there is a glorious joy in coming home.

Heroes win their epic battles. Good triumphs over evil, justice is served, and after the long cold tramps through storm and snow, the reward is simple and delightful: and well-deserved.

My other “great” (and in fact even better and more important) Book is the Holy Bible. Actually a library of different kinds of writings – history, mystery, wisdom, poetry, prophecy, Law, and Gospel – the Bible reveals God and His great Quest of relationship and reconciliation. It challenges, informs, comforts and disturbs: God has spoken, and His written Word becomes the Living Word.

My parents helped me to become familiar with the Bible stories, and I’ve had the privilege of study and training to help me share the Bible as Truth and encounter. It too has “Roads” as a theme: Abraham follows a call to a foreign land, Moses leads Israel through the desert to the Promised Land. Then Isaiah gives prophecy of a Road through the Desert, and John the Baptist is born the “Prepare the Way of the Lord” and make His Path straight. The very Son of God takes on human-ness, and walks the Way of the Cross…

Believers of Jesus became followers, disciples who learned as they walked with Him. They were named “Christians” as a nickname, “Little Christs” who shaped life on His ways and teaching.

Becoming a Christ-follower is an invitation to join a Road that “goes ever on and on.” A Quest, a journey, an adventure- sometimes a road of sorrows.

Sometimes our way ahead is as lonely, gaunt, and difficult as today’s photograph. Crossing the waters to find a steep pathway, even no pathway or so it seems. Whoever said that Christianity is only for people not strong enough to cope with life really sells faith short. It’s a life-journey for weak or strong, but with a Guide and a Companion- and fellow pilgrims to travel alongside. It is truly a great adventure… A great place to start is the Gospel of Mark, where the story is told urgently and with passion: with excitement and graphic detail. It comes to a sudden end- but by then I hope and expect you will want to read on and on… like the Road where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.”

I’ll let you into a “secret” – the ending is even better than you can imagine. Read on, if you dare.

(Isaiah 40-41, Gospel of Mark 1.)

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