Trails and paths

A reflection from Rich Dixon on a day when our Advent journal is looking at milestones we missed.


Advent, it seems, is the perfect occasion for a culture obsessed with discovery.

We’re trail blazers. We send men to the moon and create vaccines. We look forward to the next innovation, the next big thing, the coming attraction.

We’re primed to anticipate The Big Day.

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Jon’s reflections this week got me thinking about something I’ve learned from thousands of miles of cycling.

A few years back I did a 1500-mile handcycle ride. We spent months anticipating what might happen. No matter how carefully we plotted daily routes, there were unanticipated detours, wrong turns, traffic, and road conditions that required adjusting on the fly. Each day, it seemed, involved three journeys.

First came the route we planned, followed by the trail I actually rode. Finally, there was the path I remembered.

The anticipation was exciting. The ride itself – discovering, exploring, connecting – was remarkable. Trail-blazing tingles the senses with expectation and novelty. But I couldn’t really discern meaning while I looked forward. The story happens in real time, but we can write it only in retrospect.

I discover the trail by riding it, then I look back and discover a path.

I’ve learned that true fullness and richness happens as I remember.

Remember acts as a sort of curator. Remember sorts, catalogs, and displays the past. Remember seeks patterns and distills lessons. Remember allows us the perspective of time to separate wheat from chaff and organize an otherwise chaotic jumble of events.

Remember removes us from the immediacy of emotional reaction and releases us to view people and events with grace and forgiveness.

As we anticipate The Big Day, let’s remember.

An angel with astonishing news. A teen unwed mother. A baby. Exciting and remarkable.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.