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I am so glad I decided to travel Route 66 on my trip to Arizona.
It is very beautiful and sad at the same time. The road goes through some of the most spectacular country in America as well as communities that are vastly different from those we see on TV every day.
Yet, thanks to Interstate highways, many of the small towns that I have encountered are now like living ghost towns. Their abandoned businesses, dilapidated houses and rusting signs all point to a bygone era in which life was simpler and slower.
During the trip, I have noticed that Route 66 is often unmarked. Yet, if I look carefully enough, I’ll spot signs that reinforce that you’re traveling in the right direction. It might be a road sign or a mailbox address or a little plaque in a store window.
Using these signs and a good guide has helped me make sure I stayed on the right road. Although I have found myself off course upon occasion when I was distracted or not focused on where I was headed. That sounds almost Biblical.
Route 66 provides a great illustration of Jesus instruction in Matthew 7 to follow the narrow road.
Many times, Route 66 runs parallel to or within eyesight of the Interstate. Thousands of cars motor along that busy highway oblivious to traffic on Route 66. Many of the people traveling along the Interstate have likely heard of Route 66, they know where it is and even how to find it — if that was a route they wanted to follow. They just decided to go a different way or their own way.
But there as another aspect of traveling along Route 66 that God used to convey to me a message about personal growth and mission.
There are several areas where the original Route 66 veers off in a slightly different direction from the primary route. They call those spurs “alignments.” For example, I can choose to take the pre-1937 alignment instead of the 1960 route. It is technically the same road (Route 66) headed in the same direction as everyone else, but it is literally a different path.
Whenever possible, I have tried to follow the Depression era route – even if it is a dirt road. What does that have to do with a personal mission? Perhaps Jesus’ warning about following the narrow path has a special meaning to Christians as well.
A mass of Christianity is content to simply follow the crowd – going to church on Sunday, joining the men’s group, working on church committees, etc. All are fine and good. But, in the end, does it draw them any closer to God?
Is it possible that God may call me to follow a different path than that being followed by other Christians, even if it is only for a little while? I believe so.
Spiritually, there may be billions of people following the world’s high speed, impersonal path (the Interstate). There may be thousands of others who have accepted Christ and are following God’s marked path (Route 66).
But, if I feel called to leave the narrow road to follow the dirt path (a different alignment), should I embark upon the journey? That’s a personal decision, and one I am willing to make.
If you do, your pastor will likely think you are nuts. He may even accuse you of having a Messiah complex – as mine did – because you dared suggest there may be a different way than the route followed by the corporate church.
But Jesus told me to follow Him, not a pastor or an elder or a friend or even a wife. And God’s message or plan may be meant for me alone, not the church in general.
Based on my experience, if you chose to follow a different alignment, losing friends is a guarantee. Even those who have stood side by side with you for years will think you are crazy and suggest you have lost your way. Your family will likely think the same. So what? Read Matthew 10:37-39.
Throughout history God has delivered messages intended for just one person. Where would Christianity be if Martin Luther hadn’t stepped off the narrow road onto a barren path trod only for a while by God and himself? The Bible is filled with stories of ordinary men with ordinary skills who are called to step off the narrow path onto a dirt road and wind up accomplishing extraordinary things in the name of God.
As I sensed God inviting me to take a narrow path, I sought counsel for sure. But, in the end, I heard God telling me to follow the road signs he has erected for me, even if it meant taking a different alignment for a little while.