Watching the world unwrap another day this week, we took a brief trip through time and circumstance, retracing the unusual places and people that we encountered along the way.
Those who live where they grew up enjoy many benefits from that reality. Since time out of mind, up until the last century or so, where you were born was where you died, after living many fruitful years traveling the same highways and byways as you unwrapped your days.
It is only now, in retrospect, that I see the many benefits of my days of many travels that began when I began and continue to this very day. My Danny has been my faithful companion on the best and the brightest of these journeys and we have gained a wealth of knowledge along the way.
Not only did we learn the ways of the world, we gained hands-on experience. As Paul said in the fourth chapter of Philippians, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."
And so have we.
I will admit, we did not always travel wisely. Those early trips together involved emergency phone calls home; a night in the slammer; and a season of the closest thing to homelessness I ever care to see. Each of those journeys created contrite hearts in need of mercy and forgiveness. And so we learned to be merciful, we learned to forgive. It is a slow and painful process, but through the teachings of Jesus we are called to do both, with no equivocation and refresher courses on these key attributes continue to this day.
We also have met the most interesting people along the way. I attended six different elementary schools in six years, and there is someone unique in my memory from each of those schools. It was when we lived on Capitol Hill in Denver in 1965 that I met my first black person, a Mormon family and a Jewish girl.
In each of the communities where we've made our homes as adults, our exposure to differing cultures within the unique culture that is America continues. We have learned that short or tall, fat or skinny, whether from the Badlands of Wyoming or Windswept Wichita, people are people, wherever you go. Color doesn't matter. Profession doesn't matter. Education, or lack thereof, doesn't matter. Urban, suburban or rural, makes no never mind. Human nature doesn't change. There is light in the world and some seek it and there is darkness in the world that few see.
When that darkness descends, hearts break right where they stand. It doesn't matter what form the darkness takes - greed, lust, envy, name your own poison - the heart breaks. We live in a world of broken hearts. This is why we must learn to pray "God's very best for you," even for our enemies. Their hearts are broken while ours are being made whole. And although God's best for them today includes struggles, pain and heartache, it is all meant to bring them to a place where their hearts also may be made whole, to a place where they can receive his very best.
A sister and I were recently talking about Joseph, that young man with the coat of many colors who bragged to his brothers that they would one day bow before him.
The long years he spent in enslaved and imprisoned separated the man God wanted Joseph to be from the boy who bragged. Did he still hold on to the dream that inspired his brothers to conspire against him, even while he languished in prison? Scripture doesn't say. Instead it compresses those long years into a few paragraphs of narrative, with Joseph eventually coming to the conclusion that what man had intended for evil, God had used for good in Genesis 50:20.
So too, our long, long years play out, with sunrises and sunsets to mark out the days of our lives, each day providing yet another challenge wherein God treats us as his own dear children, as the writer of Hebrews tells us in chapter 12. Looking back, I can look forward with absolute confidence that today, God has taught me all that I will need to know tomorrow, for he alone knows what tomorrow will hold.
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him together.