Monday, October 29, 2007


Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk, poet, and contemplative writer, wrote a poem entitled, “There Is No Road to Grace’s House.” The inspiration for his poem was a picture of a house sent to him by a young child, Grace Sisson. Grace’s picture was typical of many pictures created by little girls: house positioned on a hill, smoke rising from the chimney, windows with curtains, knotted trees with animals peeking out of the holes… Of course, there was a huge, brilliant sun and a sprinkle of clouds in the sky and, oh yes, a friendly, smiling dog.

My first-best-friend, Mary, and I spent hours together coloring such pictures, one after another. We were like the artists who paint for the starving artist art sales—painting essentially the same picture over and over again, with minor variations. We wouldn’t stop until all the scrap paper my mom provided was converted into works of art.

What caught my attention in Merton’s poem is that he mentions four times that Grace has not included a road. No driveway; no brick path winding from the picket fence gate to the inviting front door; no way at all to get to Grace’s beautiful house. Merton’s repetition of this seeming oversight offers implications for our spiritual walk.

Sometimes there are days (or weeks or months) when, try as I might, I feel like I can’t find the road to Grace’s (God’s) House. There’s got to be one! The Bible talks about the “straight and narrow” road to the Kingdom of Heaven: “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”[1] It sounds like I’m definitely not alone in my struggle!
Wouldn’t it be nice if finding the road to Grace’s house were as simple as doing a Mapquest search? With map and step-by-step directions, I could navigate myself right up to the heavenly mansion—with nary a wrong turn—and approach the throne of God with my complaints, questions, and numerous requests.

But could it be that there really is no road?

Perhaps no road is necessary because Grace knows exactly where I am and comes to me, before I even send out a distress signal. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, states, “We do not come to grace, grace comes to us. Try as we might to obtain grace, it may yet elude us. We may seek it not, yet it will find us.”[2] What wonderful news for those of us who are directionally challenged!

In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus posed this question: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” [3] And then—get this—the shepherd rejoices and throws a party! Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” [4] When we wander far a field and lose our way, what comfort it is to know that our Shepherd is seeking us.

Maybe no road is needed because Grace’s path mysteriously intersects with, my own. "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” [5] I can visualize myself standing expectantly at the crossroads, where my life intersects with Grace, my eyes straining for my first sight of her.Grace coming to me; I like the sound of that!

And Grace will come again: Hours before he died, Jesus told his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also…" [6]

When I was an adolescent, we sang this scripture in choir and the verse and tune are a promise firmly planted in my heart. The morning that my father died, sitting on the foot of his hospital bed, I picked up his Bible from the bedside table and opened it to the page he had marked. Highlighted in yellow was this very passage. I surmised that only hours before he died, he read this passage, knowing that Jesus was coming for him soon.

“So, is there a road to Grace’s house?” rational, inquiring minds want to know! As I bring a close to this pondering, I’m remembering the final scene in the popular movie, Back to the Future. “Doc” (Emmet Brown, played by the zany Christopher Lloyd) has returned from the future to get Marty (Michael J. Fox) and his girlfriend, Jennifer, because, “Something has to be done about your kids!” Marty and Jennifer trustingly climb into the De Lorean, Doc’s time machine. “Hey Doc, we better back up, we don’t have enough road,” Marty advises. “Roads? replies Doc, as he coolly lower his futuristic sun glasses over his eyes. “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” Is there a spiritual parallel here? I’ll let you chew on this awhile…

[1] Matthew 7:14
[2] Peck, M. Scott, Recovery Devotional Bible, “The Welcoming of Grace,” p. 1182
[3] Luke 15:3-7 NIV
[4] Isaiah 53:6 NIV
[5] Jeremiah 6:16 NIV
[6] John 14:1-6 KJV, C.S. Lewis, “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

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