“And they commanded the people, saying, ‘When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go, for you have not passed this way before’ ” (Joshua 3:3,4).
I LOVE MAPS, AND THE OLDER THEY ARE, THE MORE THEY FASCINATE ME. Especially intriguing to me are maps of the world made in ancient times by cartographers who knew little of the world beyond their own immediate area. These mapmakers would draw the territory that was known at the time, and beyond that, they would just leave blank space and write, “Here be dragons.” It was assumed that if territory lay beyond the bounds of current knowledge, then dragons must surely dwell there, and any explorers who ventured into that mysterious zone should be on their guard.
Metaphorically speaking, there is a good deal of unknown “territory” in the lives of all of us. For example, the future lies off the edge of the map. Nobody has been there yet, and no one knows what that territory will be like. For all we know, “dragons” may dwell there. But even in the present, there are activities, endeavors, and experiences that lie beyond our present knowledge, and that which is unfamiliar often seems scary. Here be dragons!
If we are Christians, of course, God is our guide, so we don’t need to know what the territory is like through which we will pass. We only need to trust that He will see us through, possible dragons notwithstanding. No doubt He would say to us, as He said to Israel when they were about to cross the Jordan, that we should follow His lead, “for you have not passed this way before.”
But to my way of thinking, the thrill of the unknown is a great part of the joy of being a Christian. Yes, prudence counsels caution when we face the unknown, but faith counsels courage. Here be dragons, you say? Fine. I am eager to see them and, if need be, fight them. Whatever else it may be, life in Christ is never dull. Of all the adventures in this world, it is truly the Great Adventure.
Oh, the depths of the fathomless deep,
Oh, the riddle and secret of things,
And the voice through the darkness heard,
And the rush of winnowing wings!
(Sir Lewis Morris)