The Track Less Trampled
I was chatting with someone recently about their next overseas travel adventure.
A group of friends were going to South America and doing the trek into Machu Picchu. However she was quick to point out that they weren’t going into the old Inca ruins on the walking track that most tourists take. They were taking an alternative route, “on a path less trodden.”
It was described to me in a way, and with such a tone, that this less trodden path seemed to take on some higher virtue or superior moral value than the usual path chosen by other tourists, or at least tourism companies. Whether this higher virtue involved some kind of environmental, cultural or even spiritual value was hard to gauge.
But the fact that the alternative track had been less abused by commercial interest and less used by your average consumer traveller certainly pleased this particular group of adventure travel pilgrims.
So I started to muse over whether there is any spiritual and moral value in taking tracks less trampled.
Scott Peck thought there was. In his book “The Road Less Travelled” he takes his readers on a journey to discover self-discipline amid the difficulties of life. He also espouses the virtues of delayed gratification and acceptance of personal responsibility. In a world that lacks discipline, demands instant gratification and blames everyone else for our ‘victim’ status Peck’s less travelled road is more a confronting, than compelling one.
I’m not offering any commentary on Peck’s proposition. I only read snatches of the book when I found it in a small library at a B&B I once stayed in. But I do offer a simple apology for pinching the rhythm of his catchy title as I set out to explore some things it may mean for the disciple of Jesus today to travel on a track less trampled.
After all, it was Jesus who said in his famous sermon:
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
I read a critique of Baby Boomers some years ago which predicted that they would be queuing up to get on the road less travelled and turning it mainstream, like a six lane highway. Machu Pichu, maybe, but Peck’s unpopular path or Jesus’ narrow road? Hardly.
I offer ten tracks less trampled:
• Don’t go to Machu Picchu. Stay at home and give the money you would have spent on that trip to people who live in extreme poverty. Enjoy the slow-down, the stillness and the simplicity of a holiday in your back garden – which, in my case, is a visit to a kind of ruins in its own way
• Go to Machu Picchu and factor in the cost of another traveller in your party and give that amount to people who live in extreme poverty. Knock yourself out. Have fun. Keep safe. Drink only bottled water
• When you replace your car, buy one that is 20% cheaper than the one you would like to have, and give what you saved to train a few developing world pastors
• When you replace your car, buy the one you would like to have, regardless of the price, and give 20% of the cost of the car to train pastors in the developing world
• Don’t go on the next overseas mission trip your church advertises. The money you save could build an extra classroom - and provide local employment.
• Go on the next mission trip. See what God is doing. Build a classroom and also give the value of your trip to build another classroom with local labour. Come home with vision and passion but don’t drive everyone mad
• Don’t have dessert when you go out for dinner and give what you save to the poor
• Have just dessert and give what you save from not eating the main course to the poor. You’ve heard the advice about eating dessert first anyway
• Have mains and dessert, and even an entrée, and make a cost equivalent gift to people in need
• Cut your daily fat and sugar intake in half. Give away what you save. It’s a win/win. You can still eat everything you like. You will be healthier and so will those you give to.
Is there any spiritual value in these ten less trampled tracks? I’m less concerned about that question and more interested in another.
Where do the small gate and the narrow road of Jesus’ words lead us?
Does it not lead us to a single tollgate of that ancient and barbaric instrument of execution called a cross? Will it not lead us to the one who washed our feet and paid the toll for our sin so that we could receive his forgiveness?
And when we take this less trampled track, it is well worth remembering the words of John the Baptist who described one of the fruits of genuine repentance for a two-coated, pantry-packed and fridge-filled person:
The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the man who has food should do the same (Luke 3:11).
Feature photo: Benjamin Dumas