There is safety in numbers. It was no accident that people in the ancient world travelled by caravan: people on foot – even on camels or donkeys or horses – were vulnerable. People on the road were out in the open, exposed. The wild terrain beyond the road was the perfect place for bandits and assassins to hide. It is no wonder that in The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf warns Frodo to stay off the road, to cut across the countryside instead.
Very often, people use “journey” as a metaphor for their spiritual life. And if we are on a journey, we too find safety in numbers, caravanning with other believers who we join up with intentionally, or who we encounter along the way. At its best, this is Church.
But there are times when, like a certain man who took the narrow mountain road down from Jerusalem to Jericho, we find ourselves traveling alone. While I have never literally been beaten and left for dead, certainly I have on occasion been overtaken on the journey, beaten emotionally or spiritually or both, and left with a few shreds of faith or dignity or hope. In those moments when I have laid there wondering what was next for me, there have been those who have passed me by. Was it out of fear of coming so close to brokenness, to darkness, to whatever it was that had left me in that state and might not leave them untouched? Was it because they did not have the right resources themselves at the moment? Was it because they figured someone else would come along? Did they just not really see the depth of my need? There are so many reasonable reasons not to stop.
But, miraculously, there have always been people who have stopped, who have tenderly ministered to my wounds and given me their own donkey to ride until we got to a place where they could be assured that I was getting the help I needed. The Samaritans in my life have been many. I give thanks daily that I have not yet been left to bleed out on the open road.
And so, at those times when I have the ability to stop and help – when I find myself in possession of food and wine and oil and bandages, of a donkey and a purse full of gold coins – I do what I can to silence the voices that would say, “Maybe it’s a trap!” and “The same bandits could take you down, too!” and “Helping makes you vulnerable!” and “You only have enough for you and yours! This person is not your responsibility!” When I am feeling strong, I can hop off my donkey, and walk over to my sister, my brother, my neighbor by the side of the road, and praying that they are still breathing, see if there is anything I can do. But I do so always remembering that it is only because someone hopped off their donkey for me that I can do so for anyone else.
And so in this blog, I remember how I am blessed by those with whom I have travelled, and by those who have found me along their travels. And I hope that I may discover that I have been blessed in order that I might become a blessing.