The past few weeks have been charged with significance. Each moment has felt heavy with meaning and joy: being confirmed in Chapel; finishing my degree; launching ‘Rooted’; saying goodbye to friends; leaving student ministry behind me. Endings and celebrations, all moments held now in the midst of grad week and end-of-term tiredness.
These few weeks have felt like a pause of a moment, a crossroads. I’ve been standing between what has happened and what will happen, holding in tension memory and hope, past and future, promises confirmed and to-be-confirmed. I’ve been waiting, trying to be patient: it will be a while before the charged significance of these few weeks sinks in and takes root.
In this pause-moment I’ve oft-returned to these Jeremiah-words (also coincidentally and amazingly quoted in yesterday’s post by my mum):
This is what the Lord says:
‘Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.’
They’re from Jeremiah 6:16, and in their immediate context they speak into a crossroads-moment for the people of Israel: will they turn back to God and find refuge? Jeremiah 6:16 beautifully and hopefully raises this question of choice (and, as is the theme in OT prophets, reflects on Israel’s choice not to walk in God’s ways).
In my own crossroads-context these words have acted as a steer for prayer. They’ve presented me with a choice: when feeling the weight and intensity of this significant moment, how do I respond? First, I stand at the crossroads, and look.
Amidst the fireworks and glitter of May Week and amidst all the emotions of endings and waiting, I can pause and stand at these crossroads. Being still, I can look, savouring the bittersweet moments: I have spent much time on Clare Bridge remembering and giving thanks for these past few weeks – and these past three years – in Cambridge. I’ve savoured the moments and considered what’s ahead: the unfolding of what will change and move forward with study, friendships, ministry discernment, writing. There are so many hopes, so many exciting unknowns, and the joy-full opportunity of a crossroads from which to look, remember, and consider.
It’s also a crossroads from which to ask: ask for the ancient paths. In the waiting and reflecting, God gives a specific direction. Ask, he says. Seek, pursue, search. Ask me for the ancient paths, the patterns of life that I’ve woven into the fabric of creation just as I have set eternity on the hearts of humans. Ask me for the paths of righteousness; the highways to Zion; the walkways illuminated by my word, illuminating the world. Search out the direction I’m giving you, ancient direction which will hold you steady. It is, as I am, eternal, well-tested, true, and always tending towards life – and at your crossroads-moment I call on you to ask me for these ancient paths, so that when you move from this place you might choose to walk with me, to partner with me in bringing life and light to the world.
These Jeremiah-words capture something which bends time a little. We’re called to search for the ancient paths, because to walk in them brings life to our present moment. Walking in the old ways brings about the advent of new life. Rooting ourselves in eternity, we partner with God in earth’s renewal, the gathering of all peoples and all things to himself, in joy.
When this Jeremiah-text came up in Chapel the service’s anthem spiralled around these words: ‘sing unto the Lord a new song’. Ask for the ancient paths; sing a new song. Walk in the patterns of eternity that God has established, and find new life springing up around you. Set your hearts on pilgrimage, and you will make the desert into a place of springs and new water. Jesus is doing a new thing: do you not perceive it? He is making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The ancient paths, rooted in eternity, bear the fruit of the new thing that God through Christ and Spirit is always doing. There will be new life.
All of this goes to say that in my crossroads-moment over these last few weeks I have not only enjoyed the opportunity to look, reflect, and savour the moment, but I have also found in this space a startling and sure hope for the next few steps along the way. Whatever comes, I know that asking for and walking in God’s ancient and established paths will bring life, both to me and to those around me as I go. This is the fresh vision that I’ve found as I’ve stood at these crossroads of graduation and confirmation, endings and beginnings. There are new springs, and ancient paths. And a God who’s calling me along the way.