Jesus: Our Pioneer

To find new life, we must follow the Leader.

by Tami Rudkin

And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith . . . (Hebrews 12:1b, 2, NRSV).

Living in Wyoming has given birth to many daydreams about the pioneers who once traveled through and settled this area. Even today you can drive for miles and not see another vehicle or house or a domesticated animal. Water is scarce, and the antelope out-populate the people. The plains are vast and lonesome; the landscape echoes the loneliness.

All year round sagebrush, cactus, and tough grasses stand against the blowing wind to protect the vulnerable earth. In the spring the wildflowers bring to life a land that shouts of the triumph over long winters. The terrain is rolling, with sharp contrasts of rock jutting out of the earth. Some of the most majestic mountains in the country ascend from the lowlands. The wind blows ruthlessly, the winters brag of sub-zero weather, and the summers swelter in heat and dryness.

Portrait of a pioneer

I have often wondered who the very first pioneer was through this rugged land. Who led the way along the Oregon Trail before the ruts were a foot deep and the path was strewn with belongings too cumbersome to carry? Who was that man who gathered a few hopeful adventurers looking for freedom, new life, and riches? How did he care for them? Was he kind, courageous, gritty, adventuresome, calculated, respected, caring?

I think he was a mixture of all these things. He had to be, to take a small band of diverse people and guide them four to six months across this untamed country in all kinds of weather, with numerous impending dangers and with varying preconceptions about the journey before them.

We marvel at this kind of man. But he had made the journey already; he knew what lay ahead, and he was prepared. He had trail-blazed this way long before he attempted to take his eager followers there. He knew the spring-fed watering holes. He knew the nature-carved mountain passes. He knew just where to cross a rushing river in the spring. And he knew how to provide food if rations ran low. By his previous experience along these trails, he could impart excitement, encouragement, and the needed enthusiasm to make the difficult, sometimes deadly, trip.

Deep desires

The longing for freedom, security, and a brand new life drew the settlers into the dangers and adventures of the wild. And that’s what I, too, had been looking for; a new beginning so I could start over. Unlocking the shackles of remorse and picking up the staff of new hope. Forgetting the past and looking to the future. Paying the debt and investing in tomorrow. That’s what I desired most.

But how would I find my new life? I didn’t know the way. Via my parents, grandparents, and other spiritual pilgrims, I had heard stories of the destination, of peaceful mornings, meaningful days, and restful nights. However, I sensed the need for the Map-drawer — the first to go that way — to guide me.

Pioneer paths

Long before I could whisper His name, Jesus had been the pathfinder, the trailblazer, the pioneer of a new way to God. He had walked the grassy plains, explored the mountains, bathed in the snow-fed streams, and been tested in the fiery hell of desert floors. I knew He could lead me to the Father, to a new land of promise.

So by my invitation, Jesus, the pioneer of my new faith and new life, stepped in to guide me. With confidence I have followed the Pioneer of my heart’s profession. Together we have forged the swollen rivers of pride. We have danced in the rain of contentment. We have traversed the rocky cliffs of trust. We have built fires of praise in the mountains. We have fought enemies of fearfulness and loneliness on the plains. And we have rested in peace by the cool, flowing waters.

Spiritual journey

To the land of promise He is leading me. It’s a spiritual destination, and the journey has just begun. But while I make this trip of soul and spirit, I live in an earthly place that speaks volumes of my spiritual pilgrimage. Making my home in Wyoming reminds me that hot, dry summers come, but only after the chilly spring snow; that this plain may look parched and forgotten, but the mountain is only minutes away; that the river may evaporate to a trickle, but the well of my hope is dug deep where the water always flows.

I experience assurance when the skyline looks foreboding.

I experience peace when the winds blow relentlessly.

I experience love when the clouds cover the sun.

I experience a living faith when the journey looks harrowing.

How?

By closely following the One who has blazed the trail before me. Jesus, the rugged, courageous, self-sacrificing pioneer, leads me every step of the way to my land of freedom, security, and new beginnings.