Living on the edge ... again
National Geographic Magazine ran a story on Yosemite National Park, and highlighted an 81 year old guide named Carl Sharsmith. I found this part insightful: Carl was back at his tent quarters after a long afternoon with tourists. His nose was red with sunburn; his eyes were watery, partly from age but also from hearing again an old question after a half-century of summers in California's Yosemite National Park. A lady tourist had hit him with a question where it hurt: "I've only got an hour to spend at Yosemite," she declared. "What should I do? Where should I go?" The old naturalist-ranger finally found voice to reply. "Ah, lady, only an hour?" He paused and shook his head, and then answered, "I suppose that if I had only an hour to spend at Yosemite, I'd just walk over there by the river and sit down and cry." Our home group leader shared this story. It’s about living on the edge, and as I warned last week, I want to say something about living on the edge. So this is part 1!
Society uses the phrase “living on the edge” in a sort of admiring way, referring to those people who take risks and walk a line of danger. But I suggest there’s another more invidious way to look at this; in the life of the Christian body living on the edge is, actually, not living at the centre. That’s fine if the centre were ultimately an odious, dull and boring place, like the centre of secular hedonism. But if there’s an edge to the worldly centre, then tell me, what’s on the other side of the edge?
Can you say this and mean it? “This I choose to do. If there is a price, then I choose to pay. If it is my death, then I choose to die. Where this takes me, there I chose to go. I choose. This I choose to do.” This is the talk of someone with big picture thinking; that is, someone who sees another centre worth seeking. Someone who sees the edge for what it is. A separating line only there to be crossed over.
Being on the edgeof full Christian livingis dispassionate, mundane mediocrity; loneliness and dissatisfaction embodied. A place for those neither bold nor brave enough to commit further, a place of retreat for those who see a small narrow picture. It’s where one finds weakness and need. It’s where the single biggest challenge that can ever be faced is the challenge to say, “This I choose”.
Have you ever stopped and watched the end of a service? Do you see those who quickly slip away – people on the edge? What about when a call comes to participate, who pulls back? If a question is asked, who lowers their eyes and looks away? These people (am I one?) are the ones who Jesus is looking at with deep Longing and Passion. When Zacchaeus climbed a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus, he was living on the edge till Jesus called him to the centre. When Jesus tells the story of the shepherd who has ninety nine sheep, but goes to look for the one lost, he’s looking to those on the edge. When God speaks of the lukewarm …! God sings a song over us, “All I ever wanted was your affection, all I ever wanted was your love for ME.”
My passion is … but no, that’s for next week. What’s your passion? Or are you on the edge struggling to say “This I choose”?
 Word of the week!
 Wintersmith, by Terry Pratchett