You are standing at a fork in the road with two possible paths. One way leads to paradise, the other to devastation. As you are, you cannot know which path leads to which outcome. Once you begin on a path, you cannot turn around. Two identical guards stand at the fork. These guards have an indistinguishable but distinct difference: one is perpetually honest while the other is eternally deceitful. They both know which path is which, but you are only permitted to ask one guard one question. What do you ask?
This classic riddle has startling spiritual implications. Like the disciples in the Last Supper Discourse of the Gospel of John, desperately wanting security before Jesus’ death, in moments of intense doubt I too question the Lord. I do not feel secure enough in Him to stake my life on Him.
I hide my doubt with pleading. I beg Him to show me something, do something, prove something, so I’ll have faith to do His will. In His infinite wisdom, Jesus offers something better. Instead of a sign, He gently reminds me who He is. As He told doubting Thomas and the doubters in all of us today, He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
The fictitious TV character Dr. House frequently reminded his underlings that everybody lies. How spot on. As a nurse, I am told lies all the time, and that is not even the worst of human nature I see. I witness abuse, violence, apathy, manipulation, and heartlessness regularly. Trust is extremely difficult for me. I subconsciously question everyone’s intentions and honesty.
The Lord is no exception. I question Him the most, Him whom I ought to trust the most.
But the Lord has shown me that He is not everybody. The Lord is not human. He is God. He is not honest in one moment then deceitful in the next. He is not compassionate at one moment then callous in another. He is not benevolent in one moment then malicious in another.
Jesus has a consistency unlike any human person. He consistently loves us and wills our good. He alone is worthy of total trust.
As Jesus told His beloved disciples at the Last Supper, He would not have promised them something that was not true. He is like the perpetually honest guard of the riddle. He will lead us to paradise. Yet, unlike the riddle, our path is never sealed after one choice. Jesus allows us to continually change our ways toward Him or away from Him, towards paradise or devastation.
How will we recognize Him? The answer to the riddle is this: ask either guard what gate the other says leads to paradise. The honest guard will answer truthfully with the deceitful guard’s lie. The deceitful guard will lie and say his gate is the way. For both, the opposite action of the guards’ answers will lead to paradise.
Like the honest guard, Jesus will always answer us truthfully. His path leads us to paradise, home in heaven and peace here on earth. In His own way, by His own truth, through His own earthly life, He reveals Himself to each one of us.
Marissa is a registered nurse in her mid-twenties who works in a busy Emergency Department in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a cradle Catholic who marvels at how the Good Lord has been cradling her throughout her life.