“Over time, I have grown more comfortable with mystery rather than certainty.” – Philip Yancey
About the rugged pioneers who settled the rural West Texas county where I was raised, historian Carmen Taylor Bennett wrote these words: “This is not a story of weak-willed people, but necessarily one of men with steel in their veins . . . They were in big part a people who had left the security of friends and relation behind; had loaded scant household goods on sorry wagons and behind poor teams made their long journey west. And at night as they sat by their small smoking camp fires, fed by cow and buffalo chips, there burned in their hearts a brighter flame of hope and the prayer that the dim trails they followed led to a home of their own and a better way of life for them and for the ones they loved.”
Courageous risk-takers these pioneers surely must have been. Yet more than risk-takers they were people of faith; for by its very definition on the other side of risk there must be an element of faith. As Yancey says, “Faith means striking out, with no clear end in sight and perhaps even no clear view of the next step. It means following, trusting, and holding out a hand to an invisible Guide.”
If indeed there emerges any value from the painful economic decline of recent months it would be to remind us that security and certainty within this earthly life is a myth. Ask anyone whose job has been lost, whose 401k value all but evaporated, whose health benefits have been reduced or eliminated. Once secure and fairly certain about their future many frugal hard-working citizens from around the globe have found themselves in positions of insecurity and uncertainty through no particular fault of their own.
So it is that in such times as these we are wise to return to the spirit of our rugged pioneer ancestors who forged through life with no illusion of security or certainty; rather they were guided by sense of faith – faith in themselves, faith in one another, faith in God – and the “prayer that the dim trails they followed led to a home of their own and a better way of life for them and for the ones they loved.”