Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Gravel Path

My school’s prayer chapel sits near the exact middle of campus. This is great for the times when I’ve been having a stressful day, and have a little bit of time between classes — I’m able to walk right to it without going too far out of my way.

In addition to it’s location, it also has a beauty that draws me in. It has four small prayer rooms that can comfortably seat up to four people, though I usually snag one when I’m alone. It also has a quaint little sanctuary with a piano and cross. I love to sit in one of the little prayer rooms while others play the piano. Unbeknownst to them, their praise and worship blesses me as I listen to the simple acoustic melodies. The small building is surrounded by benches, fountains, rock gardens, and flowers. They smell awesome this time of year, and it’s a blessing to sit on one of these benches and watch the sun set as the warm evening air seems to sigh over such a beautifully painted sky. The prayer chapel is arguably the second most beautiful place on campus.

The most beautiful place on campus is the trail that leads to the chapel. There are some paved sidewalks that lead to it, but the path I’m talking about is simply gravel. It leads under some trees, winds it’s way between a myriad of different colored flowers, over a quiet creek, and up a small incline on which the prayer chapel rests on top of. Best yet, you can count on a red-winged blackbird to be singing and flying above these flowers. I haven’t walked down this path yet this spring during the day when he wasn’t out. I watched him dance in the air for about fifteen minutes one time.

I love that the path leads through the most beautiful spot on campus, but the path itself is just gravel. It practically begs you to turn your eyes from it and to the gorgeous scenery you are surrounded by. It’s the one place that I find it difficult to look down at my feet when I walk, especially when I’m processing some hard things. My worries are forgotten for a few blissful moments as I slow my pace down to enjoy this sacred space.

The gravel path reminds me of the people in my life who exemplify Christ-like character. They always seem to draw my eyes off of themselves because they contrast themselves - in incredible humility - with a beautiful God. They direct honor and praise away from themselves and towards Christ. For a few blissful moments, I catch a glimpse of what is most important — something that supersedes the hard road I walk on.

Our culture teaches us to bring attention to ourselves. Consumerism feeds this by demanding that we choose what we want at a price that is convenient for us. Media demands portraying characters that succeed when they seek self-gain, and demeaning characters that are meek and humble. Our careers only seem to progress when we ask for that promotion, or work hard for that raise. Sometimes even our churches try to sell us a faith that is focused on individual salvation, not communal sanctification. The kind of faith that says, “Individual salvation is all that matters; and if you have that, you’re gold. The Body of Christ and spiritual disciplines don’t hold much weight.”

Instead, I think the Lord calls us to honor others above ourselves. To point others in a heavenward direction when they approach us with their worries and anxieties. In fact, even that may be too selfish a stance. James 1:27 says: 

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world,” (ESV). 

This verse calls us to seek out those who are afflicted, not wait for them to come to us. Jesus wants us to meet people in their sorrows, and to immediately begin pointing them to the One who can give them peace and rest. Just like the gravel path that I’ve come to love dearly, I don’t love those encouragers around me because of what they do; I love them because they allow me to stand on their shoulders for a while to give me a glimpse of what can truly save me. In this way, they are exemplifying how we are to #LiveItLikeJesus.