In the city square of Iquitos, a small Peruvian town settled along the Amazon River, I swapped adventure stories with another tourist about where our travels had taken us so far.
It was my first time there, and his first time back since he and two college friends hiked the infamous Inca Trail in the late 70's. I have heard many stories from people who have taken this ancient trek to the ruins of Machu Picchu. But never had I heard one like his.
Long before there was GPS to locate the nearest Starbucks, travelers used the stars and whatever survival skills they had to reach their final destination. These three brave men were no different.
They spent six grueling weeks ascending and descending the steep rugged terrain of the Andes Mountains with nothing more than a hand drawn map sketched on the back of a cocktail napkin.
Yes, you read that correctly. How bold they must have been to put so much trust in something so vulnerable and susceptible to the elements.
My new friend said he was a bit skeptical at first. After all, he had no idea who the person was who drew the map in the first place. He eventually confessed he was a little scared watching their train disappear into the dark canyon.
Standing in the middle of nowhere, they looked at the napkin and began their journey. By nightfall, they had reached the first set of ruins marked on the napkin. I can only imagine the relief they must have felt. Under the vast expanse of stars, they slept with a peaceful sense of excitement and joy.
“When they saw the star they were filled with joy.” (MATTHEW 2:10)
Their story reminded me of those three ancient Magi who took their own strange journey. They left their comfortable homes and travel across treacherous lands to follow a bright shining star. Of all the billions of blinking lights in the night’s sky, there was one in particular that called out to them.
Imagine how crazy it must have sounded when they first concocted their plan. And I’m sure there was skepticism and fear among their wives and children as their caravans disappeared into the darkness of night. They had no idea what would be waiting for them underneath that star’s glowing light.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” There is much to be said about this well-traveled cliché. But what worth can a journey have if the final destination is never reached?
The Magi could have played it safe. They could have watched from afar. Instead they took the road less traveled, navigated the wilderness, overcame the tempting lure of an untrustworthy ruler, and discovered in a small town called Bethlehem, a vulnerable and revolutionary king.
If adventurers never braved treacherous, overgrown trails or climbed steep elevations in inclement weather, then the world might not have ever known of the breath-taking beauty Machu Picchu, or the life giving breath of our Lord and Savior.
I hope that your Lenten journey is becoming an adventure that takes you to all kinds of interesting places. With each step you take towards your final destination, may you never lose sight of that bright shining star that brings you ever closer to God’s joyful love through Christ Jesus.
Onward and upward!
Prayer: God, today as I try to I walk faithfully with you, led me to where you want me to go – to still waters and green pastures, to a set table for a banquet feast, or even through the darkest valley – so together we will have an adventure that might lead other’s to your glory. Amen.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”