Living Life in a Straight Line

Life itself – and Scripture too – is always three steps forward and two steps backward. It gets the point and then loses it or doubts it . . . Isn’t it a consolation to know that life is not a straight line? Many of us wish and have been told that it should be, but I haven’t met a life yet that’s a clear and straight line to truth, to self, or to God. And I even met Mother Teresa! It’s always about getting the point and missing the point. It’s God entering our lives and then our fighting, avoiding, running from that very possibility . . . Fortunately, God works with all of it, both the forward and the backward, and that’s what bases the whole journey precisely in divine mercy or what the Bible calls “steadfast love” (hesed).

Richard Rohr in Daily Meditation August 25, 2014, adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

If you could do it, I suppose, it would be a good idea to live your life in a straight line – starting, say, in the Dark Wood of Error, and proceeding by logical steps through Hell and Purgatory and into Heaven. Or you could take the Kings Highway past appropriately named dangers, toils, and snares, and finally cross the River of Death and enter the Celestial City.

But that is not the way I have done it, so far. I am a pilgrim, but my pilgrimage has been wandering and unmarked. Often what has looked like a straight line to me has been a circle or a doubling back. I have been in the Dark Wood of Error any number of times. I have known something of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but not always in that order. The names of many snares and dangers have been made known to me, but I have seen them only in looking back. Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there. I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises. Often I have received better than I have deserved. Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes. I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley. And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led – make of that what you will.

Wendell Berry in Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William)

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