There are many roads that we travel as we make our way on the journey through this life. Some of those roads are literal, physical, actual roads that take us from “point A to point B.” Others are metaphorical, roads that we travel in our hearts, with our minds, and with our spirits. Still others are both. Many of the roads that we travel, we traverse and never think of again, but some of those roads are so significant, so defining that they become drawn across our story with indelible ink.
Do you remember some of those defining roads from your life’s story? Do you remember the road that you traveled to the first day of school? Or what about the road that you took as you moved from one community to the next, relocating with your family when you were a child, or moving to college, or moving for a new job? Or what about the road that you traveled toward a defining relationship or the road away from a relationship? What was that road like? And the road home, how would you describe that road?
If we follow the story of Jesus in the Gospels, we discover that much of his life was lived on the road. He was born on the road, away from home, in his ancestral town of Bethlehem. When he was still very small, he traveled the immigrant road with his family, fleeing a tyrant who wanted him dead. When he was 12, he journeyed with his family to Jerusalem, and there was a frantic search for him on the road home. And the whole of his ministry life was spent on the road, traveling from village to village, community to community – teaching, healing the sick, casting out demons, giving sight to the blind, raising the dead. His was a life on the road.
But at the beginning of the stories in the Gospels that we read on Easter, it is not Jesus who is on the road: it is the women, the ever faithful women. They have traveled with him throughout his ministry, tending to his needs, serving him, following him along the various roads he traveled. They followed down the road to Jerusalem, and they walked the road with him during the last week of his life, a road from which most of his followers eventually fled. Then, on the first day of the week, they walked the road to the grave, the road of grief, the road of sorrow, the road of despair.
As they walked this road, they did not yet realize it, but the grave would not be what they expected it to be. For the first time in forever, the grave had been forever changed. For the first time in forever, one, who once was dead, lives to die no more. As if that was not good news enough, the messenger from God then told them, Jesus is going ahead of you, and you will see him.
Jesus is going ahead of you. That same promise is for you. On whatever road you find yourself, Jesus is going ahead of you. As you travel the road to finals, or to graduation, or to a new job, or to retirement,Jesus is going ahead of you. As you travel the everyday road of your daily routine, Jesus is going ahead of you. Whether you travel the road of joy or sorrow, hope or despair, anxiety or contentment, fear or certainty, Jesus is going ahead of you, and that makes all the difference in the world.
May this promise grant you the strength to travel today’s road. May this promise give you the courage to keep going, when the burdens are heavy and your footsteps are slow. May this promise give you the assurance that whatever roads you travel, you never walk alone.
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.