Last summer, during a family vacation to the GA coast, I took a picture of my grandson, Porter. (Well, okay, I took lots of pictures of Porter.) But there’s one that always catches my eye. (Well, okay, they all catch my eye.)
So, anyway, there’s this photo I took of Porter last summer at Tybee Island. Marianne has just strapped him into one of those two-wheeled, sulky cart gizmos that attach to the rear of bicycles so big people can tow little people around behind them. The cart is high-viz yellow with dark blue straps. It is shaped kind of like the metal container that canned hams come in. It has a mesh covering to keep really big bugs and perhaps the stray bird from flying into a child’s face. The mesh is no deterrent against mosquitoes and sand gnats, though. Fair enough. Porter always wants to see, and, more importantly that day, he needs the breeze in that heavy, hundred-degree GA heat.
Porter is sitting in the cart in a dark blue t-shirt. His thin hair, the color of wet sand, has grown long. Wisps of it droop and sag in some places, while adventuresome spikes of it fly out at random in others. “Bed head.” Also fair enough. We’re on vacation. From behind the mesh, Porter’s dark eyes, the color of which we still can’t really determine, look straight at the camera. He shows no emotion. No excitement or fear. It’s one of those looks where he could also be looking at something beyond the camera, beyond me.
It may not be the “best” picture I’ve ever taken, but the image I captured has certainly captured me—Porter’s little face staring through the mesh with that inscrutable expression.
Maybe that photo speaks to me because I often find myself feeling like Porter’s countenance looks to me. Especially as we begin a new year. Here I am, strapped in with only the most gossamer of protections. I’m being towed in a cart behind a contraption that someone else is operating. Can I really trust the one with their feet on the pedals and their hands on the handlebars? What could happen? What should I expect? I probably need a helmet.
God is always on the move, and so are God’s people. In the book the Monday night group is reading now, Brian McLaren describes the Christian faith as “migratory faith.” Because we follow God, we, too, are always on the move. Our lives and our journeys are always beginning and becoming. We’re always following Jesus who is probably less like that solid rock in the middle of the river than he is like the river itself, which is always flowing toward that great gathering called the ocean.
When Jesus says, “Follow me,” he’s saying more than just come in the direction I’m going. He’s saying, Trust me. I will lead you to a life of continual becoming. Yes, that means that you will experience relentless change, but everything that exists is changing. So, trust me. Journey with me.
Very often, that kind of trust begins with what I’ll call a here-we-go look—that same look that I think Porter has in that photograph. It’s a look that anyone who has ever helped to lead a community of people knows all too well. Abram has to have that look when he sets off toward Ur. Moses has to have that look when he confronts Pharaoh, and then, later, when he leads the Hebrews away from Egypt and sets off toward God only knows what. I even see that look on Jesus’ face when, at the wedding in Cana, his mom tells the servants at a wineless wedding, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Here-we-go. It’s how every journey begins. It’s how every new year begins. It’s even how things end, because every end is itself a new beginning. Beginnings and endings can be daunting, even fearsome things. And trust is how people of faith get started. To me, one of the most instructive passages for us is the first nine words of Genesis 12:4, “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…” That’s trust.
It’s a new year—a new era, even.
Strap in. Don’t worry about your hair.
Here we go…