The Tireless Trudge and the Caravan of Contentment

Some thoughts concerning journeying and joy, shared in a November 2011 email newsletter.

Publication: November 2011

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Frank Boreham once wrote an essay called "The Tireless Trudge," which explored the question of what was the hardest part of a journey. Was it at the outset, when the prospect of such a long journey could dampen the spirit? Was it near the end, when that journey had taken its physical toll? No, said Boreham. It was in the middle, when neither start nor finish were close to hand. when each new step neither made the point of departure recede further from view, nor the destination loom larger on the horizon. That, that was the tireless trudge.

For me, the trudge has arrived. I have started work for what will be the second chapter, which goes from one section of Matthew to the next, from the beginning of the gospel to its end, and even got so far as to submit much of what I had written for the Mt. 1-4 sections to my primary supervisor. That's the good news. The bad? To use the word processor's definition of a word, which is surely inflated given its indiscrimination, my submission was over 20,000 words. Theses may be rejected if they go over 100,000 words, and many theses are well under that. Over 20,000 words for four chapters of Matthew, and twenty-four chapters of Matthew to go. And that's for only the second chapter of the thesis. Has anyone a spare compactor of words?

I comfort myself with the thought that Mt. 1-4 has a lot of material relevant to the characterization of God, and that much of the gospel after Mt. 7 is comparatively less dense in that respect. And yet I am concerned about how long this will take, how long to finish the chapter, to finish the thesis. How long is the trudge? When will the light break through the end of the tunnel? If the Lord wills, someday it will end, and then a new stage of life will come. I'll have reached the destination, but that will become the point of new departure. And so it goes, really, until death. The tireless trudge, from the start of a program to its end, from birth to the grave.

It may be misleading, though, to call this a trudge. A path may go from town to town, but in each one, what is a dreary path to the worn traveler is home to the villager, one more mile for the journeyman a road of refreshment for the man of the town. The path is the same. The people are different. And what is true of the townsman and traveler is true of the traveler and caravan. The traveler may meet a friend in one town, but he continues on, and the friend remains behind. Not so the caravan. It is a moving city, and the friend of the caravan moves with it. This is the joy of relationships. They are things of the future. A couple's final goodbye is a tragedy, somber and sad, with only the past to look back on in wistful reminiscence. But when there is hope for reunion, when good-bye is only au revoir, there one finds the unblighted happiness of relationship. This is the joy of the caravan.

The tireless trudge gives way to the caravan of contentment. The path may go on forever so long as the traveler has company. Home stays put, while the world moves under his feet. But who shall join the traveler? Friends accompany him for a distance and reach their destination, and even those in the village of matrimony pass no further than the town of lasting sleep. Are all caravans for only a time? No, for there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. "I am with you always," he says, "to the end of the age." I travel in a caravan, till the end of the age, and the place of final rest.

Biblical scholarship is a demanding field, requiring for excellence and output great chunks of time and commitment, and there have been times when the appetite for continuing is gone. The words of Ecclesiastes, that "There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow," apply somewhat even to Biblical studies, where great minds of old are passed over in chronological chauvinism for voices that still speak. The wheel of history turns relentlessly on, till death wipes away the pride and memory of the living. The question has repeatedly closed in on me, in light of the fleeting nature of accomplishment - what's the point of what I do?

To that, I have two answers. God has loved me, and so I love him. But he has also acted in history, and in studying history, in studying the world, I find divine footprints, cues about who he is, and as his creature, who I am. It is a labor of love, a game of chasing him who has chased me, a cosmic game of tag. I also study so that others might travel in a caravan. Greatly has God used men of learning to bring people to know him. My study, my writing may not withstand the tides of time, but it need not do so. Keith Green once said of his time that this generation is responsible for this generation of souls. I may be forgotten in decades to come, but I can impact those with whom I live in this time. Death has not yet silenced my voice.

And so I press on. At times, I forget my companion, and it is a trudge. But I am soon reminded that this is not so, for I am not alone. This is a caravan. I travel to my final rest, with him who is its source. The trudge becomes a caravan.

Sincerely,

Paul Larson

October 31, 2011

Edinburgh, Scotland

Keywords: Contentment, Companionship, Work

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