Crisscrossing West Texas since early adulthood, I know the layout of the roads. I don’t need a map—not because I am male—but due to familiarity.
Texas State Highway 83 shoots to the top of my familiar list. The description “countless” underestimates the number of times—and the number of cars—I’ve steered up and down Highway 83.
Three years ago, we buried the body of our 33-year-old son in the peace and quiet of West Texas soil. The call of Highway 83 is now intense as we visit his grave in a grief process that will end when Jesus raises the dead.
The trip before last something caught my eye. A raised bed of vegetation ran parallel to my familiar road. At times the plants, weeds, and small trees disappeared to show an elevated gravel bed.
With my male blindness gene, the old railroad bed was there all along—I was the one who hadn’t seen it.
The hidden railroad has the makings of a Jesus parable. Had Jesus walked West Texas in the 21st century, he wouldn’t have resisted. It perfectly illustrates the work of tradition.
It would not surprise me were I to learn that the railroad preceded the highway. In Texas history, that was often the case.
Tradition is like that. Good ideas attract. A company lays a railway bed, workers nail down the rails, trains begin, and someone has the brilliant idea to add a highway to parallel the tracks “so we can drive our own car.”
One piece upon another—I build my life upon tradition.
Like tradition, the old train bed is there. Even though I hadn’t noticed it before, it was always in sight.
Since birth, I moved into the stream of tradition. Many traditions are rich and wonderful. Many traditions honor God. Without tradition, I would be a poor soul indeed.
There are also harmful traditions. My definition of a harmful tradition is any action entering my DNA that hides Jesus from me or block Jesus from the sightline of others.
Here is what concerns me.
A hidden line of traditions parallels my life.
Like the overgrown Texas Highway 83 railroad bed, I follow unseen traditions. It is only when I begin to recognize the fact of their presence that I can evaluate good traditions from harmful ones.
Are there traditions in my life that create a super magnetic field keeping my soul needle from pointing true north?
Do we have traditions in our churches that hide Jesus from others?
Does my daily walk rely more on the railroad bed of traditions than upon Jesus as eternal truth?
Do the traditions of our local groups of believers keep us from honoring Jesus’ heart in His desire that His church be one?
Just maybe—if I were to examine more closely my own hidden tradition bed—I might conclude that my set of “thus says the Lord beliefs,” flows more from tradition than from the Son.
Wouldn’t that exercise make me a greater participant in creating unity in the body of Christ?
Gary J. Sorrells – Reflecting on Cross Church