The Road Of Life: Joyride or Joyless Commute?
That kid in the photo had a defined chin, and a nice thin neck. He had a full head of hair, to boot.
Honestly, I can't even remember what I was thinking when that photo was taken. I do remember the feeling of freedom I felt when I took my parent's car out for my first solo drive later that day, though.
Funny isn't it? I can't recall much of what was happening in my life when I turned sixteen, but I remember that feeling of freedom when I drove slowly around my neighborhood looking for some girls to impress.
Many years ago, I read this John Updike short story entitled "The Happiest I've Been" that made me remember the moment of my first solo drive. At the end of the story, the young narrator finds himself driving away from his rural Pennsylvania home to the big city of Pittsburgh, where he's attending college. The young man is filled with a sense of joy as he approaches the tunnels leading into the city.
As he drives, the young man in Updike's story considers the "many reasons for my feeling so happy," among them (the reader is slowly made aware) is a feeling of euphoria that comes from freedom and limitless possibility. He's young, his life is before him, and he feels a kind of joy he's never felt before, and secretly suspects he may never feel again.
I've often heard it lamented that (to paraphrase the great playwright George Bernard Shaw), youth seems to be wasted on the young. I suppose there's some truth in that.
But then again, freedom, hope and the prospect of limitless possibility are feelings that shouldn't be stifled--especially for those of us who believe in the Resurrection of Jesus.
Because of the Resurrection of Jesus, we have the hope of unbounded freedom from anything and everything that would enslave us or keep us down. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus there are no limits on what is possible from a God who is still in the business of doing impossible things.
"If the Son sets you free," Jesus told his followers, "you will be free indeed."
So why is it that we live our lives looking backward instead of forward? Why, when we have been set free and given limitless possibilities through Jesus, do we choose to live in less-than ways? Why do we too-often make the road of life a lifeless commute rather than a top-down, radio-blaring, wind-in-our-face joyride?
The 13th century poet Rumi wondered the same thing. He wrote, "When a bird gets free, it does not go back for remnants left on the bottom of the cage."
I believe that Jesus means for us to live our lives with wild abandon, full of hope, giddy with the limitless possibility of the road before us. "For freedom," the Apostle Paul wrote, "Christ has set us free... stand firm therefore and don't go back to the enslaved life you used to live." (Galatians 5:1)
May you discover newfound freedom today and every day forward. May you see the road before you as a path to new adventures, undreamt possibilities and abundant life. May you be known as a sold-out, hope-filled follower of Christ, who lives in joy.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.