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On Faith: Take the wandering path

One of my favorite parables was told many years ago by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

When he was a 9-year-old boy, young Frank took an evening walk with his uncle across a snow-covered meadow. As the two of them reached the woods at the far end of the field his uncle stopped and turned around.

He pointed to his own footprints, which made a perfectly straight path through the snow. Then he pointed to Frank's footprints, which meandered all over the field.

He knelt in the snow next to the boy and said: "Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly, from the fence, to the cattle, to the woods and back again. And see how my tracks aim directly toward where I wanted to go. There is an important lesson in this. You need to be focused on your goal if you are going to accomplish anything in life."

As an elderly man, Wright would tell this story to anyone who would listen. He believed that this one experience had helped to shape much of his philosophy about life.

"I decided right then," he'd say, "not to miss all of the wonderful things in life that my uncle had missed."

Wright saw in his wandering tracks what his uncle couldn't see — that much of the beauty of this life is present in the journey itself. By taking the path less traveled, we are led to people whom we would otherwise never meet.

This is how we come to experience the joys and the sorrows of the community that we live in. It's how we shift the focus of our lives away from our own goals and our own desires, and toward those whom we are called to serve as disciples.

The gospel narrative shares the story of Jesus' wandering journey, which is a breathtaking passage of healing, prayer, confrontation, joy, sorrow and sacrifice. The meandering path that he took brought him into contact with the very people who needed him the most: the sick, the poor, the outcast and the despised.

Jesus took the time to encounter the brokenness of the lives around him so that he could restore them. Jesus' ministry centers on restoring people and raising them up so that they can once again share in their community.

In this way, lepers aren't just healed, they are cleansed so that they can go back and reclaim their place in society. Those who are social outcasts are invited in so that they can be a part of the fellowship that surrounds Jesus.

We often tend to live like Wright's uncle, focusing only on what lies at the end of our journey. But Jesus reminds us that it's not like that at all.

We are invited to be like that 9-year-old boy and take a winding path so that we can engage with those who live around us. It means living out God's kingdom right here on the North Shore so that others can come to believe what we have already seen with our own eyes.

"On Faith" is a weekly column in the News-Chronicle written by area religious leaders.