“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
This is not always true.
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, if we don’t have a way…
we’re still lost.
I learned this in memorable fashion when I tried to hike a “winter 14er.” In February 2003 my roommate and I attempted to summit one of Colorado’s 14,000 peaks in the snow. We picked Bierstadt for our adventure because it was known as one of the easiest 14ers to hike and – more importantly – because it had a clean avalanche record.
I wasn’t far from the top when I paused to reevaluate things. It had started to snow. In a rare moment of setting aside my pride, I decided I would rather live to hike another day. I turned around.
In the next 10 minutes I lost 3 very important things.
1. The trail. It had been obvious on the journey up, but disappeared in the boulder field that made up Bierstadt’s summit.
2. My snowshoes. Friends, do not EVER put down your snowshoes thinking, “I’ll pick them up on the way back.” This is a terrible plan.
3. My roommate. We had separated while hiking at our own paces, which is normally no big deal… but which becomes big deal when one loses the trail altogether.
In short, I had lost my way.
I headed in the only logical direction: downhill. Swimming through a half-season of powdery snow quickly worked me into a panic. Thankfully – and miraculously – I reconnected with my roommate before too long. She was also lost, but at least we were lost together.
We wandered down the slope of Bierstadt – her plowing the way with her snowshoes, me swimming behind – but we were getting nowhere. Our theories about how and where to find the trail proved fruitless. We had plenty of will… but no way.
At just about our lowest moment, another miracle took place.
As we sat catching our breath and racking our brains for the next desperate plan, a wind blew through and pushed back the clouds. For the first time in hours we could see across the valley, toward where the parking lot should be. But everything was snowy white – the parking lot, the road, our car. We still couldn’t see where we needed to go. We still had no way.
Just then, an SUV drove across the landscape. The movement of that vehicle allowed us to see the road, and we traced the road to the parking lot… there! our car!
To make a long story a little shorter, we made it to our car about 15 minutes before complete dark dropped in. If it hadn’t been for that SUV, I don’t believe we would have made it off that mountain.
We had all the will in the world… but no way.
We sometimes live like this: trying our hardest, but lost nonetheless. We know that there is something more, something that we want and need. We work passionately but get nowhere. We chase after the wrong things.
Without a way, we are lost.
When Thomas asked Jesus, “How will we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way” (John 14:5-6).
Christ is our way in life when we follow his example and his teaching.
Christ is our way through the Holy Spirit he left us, which guides us.
And Christ is our way after death;
Christ defeated sin and death so that the way is clear to God and eternal life.
On this second Sunday in Advent, we celebrate Christ our Way. And I am so grateful for that Way.
Listen to John the Baptist:
“Repent.” “Turn.” “Change directions.”
Look for the Way in the Christ Child.
Then turn, and follow.