Today, I sat in Duke Chapel (it's a grand sight) and listened to Dean Richard Hays share a homily on a gospel lesson I can't remember. I can't remember it because I was lost in an intense and nearly impenetrable daydream. It wasn't that I wasn't paying attention, I was merely lost in applying his words to an image that I'd left for the dust on the shelves of my mind.
Hays asked the listening crowd, "Are you in or are you out?" And with his question, I was gone. The image of a fork in the road appeared, the same fork that I had seen over ten years ago on a late night in Spain.
Just prior to leaving for Spain, I had a crisis of faith during which I decided that I didn't have any use for a god that would let my brother die and leave me to sweep up the pieces of my family. I was out of the church and off to Spain.
My time in Spain was rudderless. When I arrived, I had no language to express myself, no mother to force me to church, and no friends with whom to vent about my mother. This changed over the course of my time there, but my early months were deeply introspective and lonely. I survived on sheer stubbornness and some of the best food I'd ever tasted. All that time in my head stirred a series of existential questions that most people wait to ask until they are in college or later or never.
I was lying in my darkened room one night waiting to fall asleep when those questions began shoved their way into my thoughts. I wondered, like many 17 year-old girls, what I was going to be when I was older and what I was going to do for fun. And then the fork in the road appeared. My mind traveled through the two options before me. To follow Christ down the path of righteousness or to follow my own seemingly brilliant thoughts and ways down the other road. Neither path was very appealing. Neither screamed "Walk this way" like Steven Tyler is so apt to do. I was smart enough to know that following Christ meant suffering and following myself meant falling on my face.
I didn't choose a path or answer Hays' question that night. I somehow flipped onto my side and fell asleep. But the image haunted me for days and months and ultimately (in combination with several other sleepless nights and weighty conversations) led to my reaffirmation of faith in Christ. Today the image is no longer frightening and dismal, but an encouragement that I am not finished here. I am in, on Christ's path, struggling and surviving on his sheer stubbornness and the best food I've ever tasted.
Though, somehow, his stubbornness is considered a virtue.