Great suffering makes theologians out of us all. The questions people ask about God in Sunday school rarely measure up to the questions we ask while we are in the hospital. It is true for those stuck in a hospital bed and those stuck in the waiting room. To love someone who is suffering is to learn what real pain is and to discover a depth of life that is unfathomable when everything is going well. Why me? Why now? Why this?
At the beginning of this New Year, I have resolved to quit the journey. That’s right, that crazy linear journey that we call life in America. Almost every day, I wish people well on their journeys, as they wish me well on mine. Sometimes we offer to go withone another at least part of the way. When this is not possible we offer each other provisions for the journey—a book, a song, a tract, a message from the hottest new speaker—without ever really thinking of where, exactly, we think we are going. Sometimes, the destination is heaven. Other times, it is arrival at the right job, the right relationship, the right sense of contentment and peace.
However differently we envision the ends of our journeys, what we share is the certainty that we are not there yet. How could we be, when we are still so uncomfortable in our skins, so unfulfilled, so clearly less than we were created to be? On the journey, hope takes the shape of knowing that while all of this may be true, there is still more road ahead. As long as God is God, what counts is being on the way, putting one foot ahead of the other with eyes fixed on the distant horizon.