Wednesday, August 7, 2019

"have mercy on the traveler..."

"Lord, make soft
the stranger's bed;

rest the weary feet
see the mother,
see the father
see the child,
have mercy on the traveler..."

This summer I've been a traveler. Thousands of miles. Tonight, as I think about beginning my long journey home, Sara Groves song touches me deeply. If you haven't heard  "Jesus, See the Traveler,"  I hope you will take a moment to hear this prayer.

Jesus saw the traveler. He was with them on the road.  Not the Pharaoh carried by slaves in a livery. Not the King in a golden coach.  Not the soldier high in the saddle on a noble horse. No, he spoke to, and of, the stranger in a strange land. The son who wanders from the security of his father's home. The Levite who is robbed on the road and left for half dead until another stranger - a  Samaritan - binds up his wounds. The Canaanite woman who brings her daughter to a strange land for healing.  And he is a stranger who asks for water in a foreign village.

He ministers to the ten lepers he meets on the road. He, himself, a traveler - from city-to-city - preaching the gospel of the kingdom. A stranger, a wanderer, a man in exile, an errant son, an immigrant, a border crosser - these were his people.

When I was preparing to leave home for my own 7 week journey this summer, I was not fleeing anything but familiarity and routine.  But still, I was wakeful for nights learning up to my departure.  Was my car sound enough for such a long drive?  Would our pups think I'd disappeared?  Would my children feel that I'd gone "on holiday," when they were working so hard.  Was I being fair asking my husband to take on my household chores in addition to his own? What if I broke down on the highway? Where would I sleep in the middle of the night?

Knowing that I am an intelligent woman with a car, a credit card, and a love for road trips - you might think that these are silly concerns. But they were insinuating themselves aggressively. I had my car trip-checked my our mechanic twice within a two week period. I called my credit card company and back to let them know exactly what states I would be driving through so that my cards would not be rejected.

And then I thought of the many refugees and asylum seekers who are may be fleeing hostile countries with small children -- and I wept. I had so many resources, and still I was anxious. How must it feel to leave all that is familiar with just what you could carry, with children needing your assistance?

I remember when the girls were little and we would drive from the Midwest to camp each summer. I would get tired and need to rest. I would pull into a rest area and because it was often quite warm -- even at night -- I would leave the car running and tell the girls that "mommy just needs to closer her eyes for a minute" -- but I couldn't rest. I worried that somehow the car would engage into gear and start rolling. I would fret that the girls would figure out how to open their doors -- even though I had the child locks set. I worried about how to keep them safe while I rested. I was not a mother with a baby on her back crossing the desert. I was in a luxury SUV with air=conditioning, snacks, movies, and child locks.

I sorely felt my privilege in the context of their circumstances. How could I be anxious? Yet, I was. However, it was what we had in common that finally brought me peace. Each and every one of us -- as travelers -- has the same, "God with us."

And we have the example of the ultimate spiritual traveler. A man who carried no credit card -- or even a scrip for holding resources, gathering victuals, or saving something for later. This traveler knew that whether he was crossing the wilderness, sleeping in the desert, or navigating a storm-tossed sea, His Father was with him. Paving the way, providing what he needed, comforting him in the night, bringing him to a place of rest.

He had hundreds of precedent setting cases of spiritual trust to refer to. He knew the story of Moses parting the Red Sea, of Hagar finding water flowing from a rock, and the prophet's promise that there would be streams in the desert. He trusted that his Father loved him, just as much as he loved Moses, and Elijah, and Joseph, and Abraham, and...

As I prepare for the next leg of this journey, I am following him into a deeper trust. This passage from Mary Baker Eddy's Science and health with Key to the Scriptures is a traveler's prayer:

"As the children of Israel were guided triumphantly through the Red Sea, the dark ebbing and flowing tides of human fear, — as they were led through the wilderness, walking wearily through the great desert of human hopes, and anticipating the promised joy, — so shall the spiritual idea guide all right desires in their passage from sense to Soul, from a material sense of existence to the spiritual, up to the glory prepared for them who love God. Stately Science pauses not, but moves before them, a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, leading to divine heights."

Whether your summer travels are finished, still in progress, or ready to begin again; -- I pray you feel God's presence guiding you and guarding your every step, mile, boarder-crossing.

offered with Love,


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