Posted by: nickgerlich | August 28, 2007

The Winding Road

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard people talk of the Christian experience as a journey along a very straight and narrow road…one that is predictable, has no twists and turns, has only one lane (to avoid passing others), and has six-inch curbs on each side to keep everyone in the groove.

It’s a lot like riding the race cars at Disney World, except the highway is straight. In both cases, though, there’s no chance of sliding off the track.

I never did like that assessment of the Christian life. First, it sounded way too pre-fabricated, using someone else’s idea of what a Christian life should be. Second, there was no room for adventure, trial and error, or questioning. Finally, it was a little too perfect, totally unlike life in the real world.

Real Christians don’t drive down a perfectly straight one-lane road with curbs. Real Christians have problems. They have questions. Sometimes they steer all over the terrain. And there are frequent curves in the road, because Jesus never promised he’d lob nice and easy softball pitches to us.

I’m reminded of a song by Sheryl Crow, “Everyday Is A Winding Road.” The lyrics tell the story of a postmodern pilgrim in “the days when anything goes.” As Crow tells it, “Everyday is a winding road…I get a little bit closer. Everyday is a faded sign…I get a little bit closer…to feeling fine.”

In today’s “anything goes” culture, it’s little wonder that songmeisters like Crow feel a little disenfranchised (listen to some of her other songs to see what I mean). I actually like Crow’s music quite a bit, but frankly, I’m disturbed by her apparently directionless outlook on life (I guess Lance Armstrong couldn’t set her straight).

Of course, Crow merely echoes the sentiments of many. It’s not exactly the teen angst we witnessed with alt-rock 90s bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and others, but it’s still alarming in that many think that we can just do as we want along the twisty-windy road that fate presents.

And eventually we’ll get a little bit closer to feeling fine.

This worldview stands in pretty stark contrast to the one we have heard in church for years. The problem is, I think that Crow’s worldview is actually a lot closer to what Jesus had in mind than do many Christians.


Crow’s worldview is a Disney race car ride without the metal guide running down the middle, no governor on the engine, and the freedom to ride all over the park. Funny thing, but the life Jesus calls us to is a lot like this…except that our car comes equipped with a compass.

Ever since I became a Christian, I’ve never felt like my road was perfectly linear. If anything, I’ve felt like I was facing the best screwball pitcher the big leagues could put on the mound…except that his name was Jesus.

It’s not exactly that Jesus wants us to strike out. Far from it. It’s just that the life Christ calls us to is one that is topsy-turvy, filled with dangerous curves, potholes, steep climbs, screaming downhills, and unexpected stop signs.

But Jesus never called anyone to an easy life. He came to turn our lives upside down inside out in order that we might become rightside up and outside in.

I speak from experience. Here I am, 48 years of age, buckled in, but my hands are a little sweaty on the wheel. I’m screaming down the road of life at God-speed, the cross in my rearview mirror, the throne my destination, but I can’t see the route ahead.

As Rich Mullins once said, I’m “letting go for dear life.” And I’m loving every minute of it.



  1. I love Rich Mullins

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