There seems to be a potent metaphor in the story of the exodus that I’ve never really considered before. Why did it take the Jews 40 years to make a journey that should have taken 40 days? How is it that we humans can know with our heads that the shortest distance between point A and B is a straight line but our hearts always seem to relish detours?
The history of the wandering Jews recorded in the Old Testament is a chronicle of one step forward two steps back. Isn’t that pretty much the way it is in our own lives? The Father showed us the straight way. You showed us the straight way. C’mon, You had to know as humans that we wouldn’t stick to that! But, as always, God had to give us a choice. You are, as John the Baptist said, “the way,” and when he told people to make straight Your path I wonder if he wasn’t wryly considering the ironies of the exodus scenario. Of course he, or we, don’t even have to look at the Old Testament. Each of our lives is a daily recollection of the exodus in one way or another. Our days are replete with divergent paths, distractions, and temptations. We wander a lot and we’re still far from the promised land. But the land is still promised if we can only make our way there.
What the head knows is not always so great a concern to the heart. In this sense we may say that the heart rules the head – for better or worse – and so we wander because there is conflict between these two. There is both an upside and a downside to feelings prevailing over knowledge or vice versa. What is needed is some mediating faculty that would weigh both sides and put us straight. Maybe there is. Maybe it’s conscience.