I have been captivated in recent weeks by a series of images.
Not normally one to be enthralled by nature I presumed it was my artist’s eye for colour that had me mesmerised by the selection of photographs of tree-lined avenues. I know for myself, that if I was to come across any of these places, I wouldn’t be able to resist running right down the middle. Strolling down a street where the lights on the road twinkle through the blossom on the trees could be an image conjured up in a Richard Curtis movie, and yet it’s more real than it is romantic.
The more I thought about the perfectly framed shots, the more I realised I couldn’t stop thinking about them.
And the more I began to think about that, the more I was convinced there must be something more to these pictures.
Maybe there was something of God to be taken from these stunning images?
Maybe these avenues captured my heart because they resonate in scripture?
Psalm 126:5-6 says: “Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.”
When I look at these pictures my immediate thought is how much I would like to walk down that particular avenue. The colour captivates, the beauty mystifies, the path simply draws you in. And yet it wasn’t always like this.
There was a day, in each of the histories of these beautiful scenes, where no trees lined the way, instead just a simple line of seeds were planted.
Someone, somewhere, had the foresight and intention to create the places whose images I am savouring today.
It was as though that someone dreamt of a place where their future descendants would walk and enjoy, but refused to leave it in the realm of ‘one day’ to bring it to the land of ‘today’, creating new paths for us to walk down.
As I have pondered over these pictures, and the scripture I mentioned, the thought came to mind: “What seeds am I planting today to create a pathway that others will be compelled to walk down?”
Think about it. Are the things we’re working so hard to establish the same things that will leave a legacy for others to follow? And not just follow like you would a well worn rut in a road, but follow as though magnetised, pulled in, enraptured?
Is the life I’m leading adding to the beautiful legacy of the saints who have gone before me, bringing others and future generations onto the journey of faith?
The extract from the Psalm talked about weeping as they planted their seeds but singing with joy when they gathered the harvest. I can’t speak for anyone else but that pictures gives me great hope. It tells me that all the difficult decisions I make now, all the ‘hard stuff’ we have to do, if we do it toward the pathway of God it will reap a beautiful harvest.
Let’s be clear; there is no better bounty than whatever heaven has to offer. When we pray ‘Have your will on earth as it is in heaven,’ we’re not asking for earth to become gold-plated, we’re asking for justice, for equality, for health and wholeness. These are the spoils of the Kingdom. These are the things that come from living a life surrendered to the King.
So I ask myself again, “is the life I’m building; the pathway I’m creating, a path that will lead others closer to God, or further away? Does my life compel others to follow Jesus or to shy away?” I’m scared to answer, if I’m honest, because there is no other calling on my life, or indeed on yours. The detail of that is yours to dream with, but the goal is always the same: follow Jesus and help others do the same. In this way we see the greatest reconciliation of all time: that of the relationship between man and God.
I love this passage from 1 Kings 2, taken from The Message translation. It says: “When David’s time to die approached, he charged his son Solomon, saying, “I’m about to go the way of all the earth, but you – be strong; show what you’re made of! Do what God tells you. Walk in the paths he shows you: Follow the life map absolutely, keep an eye out for signposts, his course for life set out in the revelation to Moses; then you’ll get on well in whatever you do and wherever you go. Then God will confirm what he promised me when he said, “If your sons watch their step, staying true to me heart and soul, you’ll always have a successor on Israel’s throne.”
This couldn’t be much clearer. He spells it out that the path has been well laid for him to follow and if he follows on, a new generation will always succeed.
So not only is there a path that I can follow; a beautiful way that compels and attracts because it originates in God, but there is also a path being created by me, for the next generation of believers to follow.
If that’s the case I can understand why there may be tears. What am I teaching my children – and others around me – about living a life of faith? What do my financial decisions say about who or what I love most? What does my sharp tongue say about the God who personifies love? What direction does the sign post of my life send people in?
In 2 Kings 15 we read that Pekah became king of Israel in Samaria but was evil because he didn’t “deviate from the path laid out for him by Jeroboam, who led Israel into sin.”
Then later, in chapter 22 of the same book, we are introduced to Josiah who “kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David.” It says he lived the way God wanted.
I don’t know about you but I would rather be the second type of person. I want to be the one who blazes a trail for others to follow leading them closer to God than they would have been on their own. I want to live the way God wants.
Friends, will we choose to be the beautiful, vibrant, compelling pathways that others can’t resist and want to emulate? Will be seek His spirit and the fruit that comes with it, even knowing times of pruning and cultivation may hurt? Will we keep sowing into our own lives good decisions and godly principles so the next generation and a new generation will have a path to follow?
Please, don’t be disheartened. Don’t worry about the impact you are making on your own. The beautiful thing about an avenue is that its strength and majesty is derived from it being a group. When you stand shoulder to shoulder with others, all determined and intentional about reflecting the goodness and beauty of God, and when you face others, emulating their strength and dignity, you cease to be one person, you become part of a mighty, beautiful, compelling, avenue. An avenue of mercy, of hope and of love.