Photo cred: Natalie Johnson
By: Nick “Tapobu” Rohlf
One More Walk down that Sacred Road
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes,what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:8-12
The following was written May 31, 2013.
My heart has been heavy lately, heavy with memories of events that once shook me to my very core.
Four years ago began the storm. As I rushed home, not knowing where I stood among those I loved dearest, I ventured out onto that sacred road, not sure what I would find. I was afraid. Afraid of the darkness, afraid of the unknown, afraid of the future and of the past, afraid of myself and of those around me, afraid to die but more afraid to live. And yet I continued down that sacred path, that one quiet road in town where cars rarely bothered me. I fought with You, I pleaded with You, I shouted at You, I turned my face away from You. And yet, every way I turned, still You remained. I asked for but one thing and promised the world in return. Still You remained silent. Days turned to weeks, and soon I returned to that place where I had once felt I belonged. Around every corner I saw enemies, phantoms awaiting to assault me. I sought out that quiet again, but nowhere in town seemed safe to me. There was no quiet, for every corner contained shouting memories of my failure.
And then, of course, I was gone. Exiled. Banished. Perhaps never to return. After a semester of my attempts to solve my own problems, I had reached the consummation of my humanity. I no longer feared the future; I simply no longer believed it to exist. You were silent, and I had been abandoned.
And yet, against all reason, the days continued, as did I. Slowly I returned to that sacred road, this time with no demands, only remorse. My promises no longer rang hollow; I promised to find a better way to live, and with your help I was able. Still I walked that sacred road, fearing again for a future that now seemed to come all too quickly.
And then came that final semester, the fifth year. I expected people to know who I was, what I’d done; I expected them to avoid me. How relieved I was to discover that nobody had any idea who I even was. The semester came with full force, and though at times I failed, one truly wondrous thing occurred: I met my sister. Though we both faltered, we both stumbled our way through that semester, it is only with each other that we were able to make it to that finish line. Looking back, I realized that had I never failed in the first place, we never would have met each other. What, then, would have become of our lives? I always thought to myself, how lucky I am that God had used my failure to achieve something so wonderful.
And then tonight, I walked that sacred road once more with the desire to feel as though I’d come far, as though I’d accomplished something. Here I was, a changed man, for the first time in my life in charge of my own destiny. I will find my way, I will make the world a better place, I will…
But all thoughts of my own righteousness fled my mind as I reached the end of that road. As my shadow crossed the path of a railroad sign, for the first time I noticed something that had always been there: the shadow of a cross, and as I passed by it appeared as though a man was on that cross. This shook my sense of righteousness out of me as I remembered all I’d suffered. As I remembered all the suffering my desire to control my destiny had wrought upon me thus far. As I remembered who truly bore the brunt of that pain. As I reflected on that shadow, I reached the end of the sacred road, and for the first time I stopped to look at the sign.
And then I wept.
I wept for all that was, all that is, all that ever shall be. Before I’d ever lived in that town, the road had existed with that sign marking its beginning. Before I’d ever set foot on that road, the Almighty already knew that someday I would haunt its dark, peaceful stretches. Before I’d ever heard the name Northwestern College, I had started on a path to fail, on a path to be exiled, on a path to a slow and cautious return to somehow redeem myself. And yet, I had already been redeemed, long before I even knew that road existed. I wept as I gazed again upon that sign, as I was brought again to that darkness that stands outside time. I wept with the understanding that I am no longer afraid of what is to come, for it has already been decided. For on that sign at the start of my sacred road was written, had always been written, the name of my sister.