I remember the first time I saw a map of Middle Earth, from J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings. Everything was there. The Shire, Rivendale, Mordor, and more. Every place that Frodo and his fellowship would travel was before my eyes. I wanted to discover the Shire, experience the beauty of Rivendale, and see what lurked in the darkness of Mordor. Much of my frustration with Christianity stems from understanding how it actually works. How do I get started? What do I actually do? I want a way of being Christian that isn’t nominal, theoretical, or superficial. This is my angst. What I've found in the lives of Ancient Christians is a kind of map–a map of spiritual country–helping me see where I am, where I'm going, what challenges I'll face, and what glories I'll experience. The Amazon River on an atlas is a far cry from the wide, wet, unpredictable water that snakes through the jungles of South America. A map is never meant to replace the place. It doesn't satisfy our longing, rather it stokes it, drawing us into the locale, beckoning us to see its realities, its smells, its texture. A map, at its best is a kind of overture, a waving of the hand, a call to look and see, but more than that, to come and taste.

Jonathan R. Bailey