On the way

I’m partial to photos of pathways, images that simultaneously evoke both a sense of promise and adventure.  I shot this one last Saturday, on my birthday, when my wife and I took a day to visit the Los Angeles County Arboretum for the first time since our children were small–which means many years ago.  Strolling through the grounds, we came upon a tall stand of bamboo, rising like walls on either side of the well-trodden path.  I dropped to one knee and captured this image for my collection.

That day also happened to be Holy Saturday, the mysterious day between Good Friday and Easter in which the crucified Christ lay in the tomb.  I wasn’t sure what significance that had for how I should understand being a year older, but somehow the fact amused me.

These past few days, though, I’ve been specifically reflecting on the nature of Christian hope, and I’ve begun to wonder if this somehow explains my fascination with photographs that suggest a journey into the unknown, of anticipating and discovering what lies just around the bend.

That is, after all, one possible metaphor for the Christian life: an adventure in which we find ourselves on the way from the cross to the resurrection.   We have been crucified with Christ.  That is a given.  But while his resurrection is an accomplished fact, for us it is a promissory note signed by the Holy Spirit.  There is a sense in which we are meant to live, as it were, on the Saturday side of the cross, anticipating our own Easter.

I sometimes get the impression that biblical hope doesn’t occupy much real estate in the church’s imagination.  Or perhaps I should say more honestly that I’ve realized it doesn’t take up enough room in mine.  On any given day, my hopes are too shallow, my horizons too immediate.  I set my sights on accomplishing things on the to-do list, on getting through this or that project, on surviving the rigors of the day.  And in so doing, I often forget to raise my eyes higher.

The day we call Easter Sunday is behind us now, at least until next year.  Yet I think the apostle Paul would insist that we keep the anticipation of resurrection in front of us.  Always.  Despite appearances to the contrary, that is the destiny which draws us forward on our various paths.  It may seem like a long way off.  But in God’s time, it’s just around the bend, and we’re already on the way.

To forget that is to lose hope, and to lose hope is to lose our way.