In “The Four Loves,” C.S. Lewis uses an analogy regarding progress toward nearness to God, in which a person is traveling down a mountain, toward his village home.
At one point he can see the village, directly below, from a cliff above. It can be said that he is spatially very close to home but since he would have to drop off of the cliff to get there, he is actually not so close to home.
He must take the long way around to get there. At some points he will be farther away than he was when standing on the cliff. But as it relates to progress he is getting nearer and nearer with each turn and detour.
I really like this analogy. How many of us, in pursuit of faith, sanctification, knowledge of God, etc, have taken what seemed to be detours? The long way around? At times it can appear as though we are moving away from Him, away from faith. But then we see that the dips, twists and turns only brought us nearer in the end?
There are things that we must wrestle along our way, there is rough terrain, there are discomforts – and joys – that cannot be avoided.
I’ve certainly travelled a path like that. I’ve had (and have) questions and doubts and curiosities; I’ve had the dark night of the soul; but those things lead me closer, not farther away, despite what it looks like to the outside observer, or even to myself.
I’ve been misunderstood and I’ve misunderstood other people in this process. Lewis also points out that people, generally speaking, have a difficult time taking note of differences without assigning rank to them. Surely, one must be better than the other – and usually it’s the category into which we place ourselves that is superior.
It might be better to just note and appreciate our differences and understand that not every path home looks the same (and that should not be construed as me saying all roads lead to God – I’m speaking in the context of Christianity).
Some people take, and maybe require, more detours than others for reasons we won’t always understand. I celebrate (and envy) those who happen upon the shortcuts and bypasses. Let’s also celebrate the progress of those who just keep going down the mountain, drawing nearer and nearer to Home.