This week I was thinking about all the different kinds of paths I’ve walked and hiked. We approached the intersection of where we usually turn right for a loop through a less traveled part of the woods. My pup wanted to go right, but I had decided to go straight as there were too many people on that path. She looked up at me confused.
It struck me that so often we walk the same path not thinking that we may need to take a right or left turn or in this case, go straight ahead. Sometimes our path is well worn like the deer trails I see in the winter woods, worn through the leaf cover down to the mud from their habitual passing. Deer are creatures of habit as I can attest from their raids in my garden. Unless diverted, they will repeat the same path for food. How like the deer we are in many aspects of our lives.
Sometimes when we sense a gentle nudge to change direction or path, we ignore it because the old path is familiar and comfortable. Maybe we are walking a crooked path and the Lord is trying to nudge us back to a straighter one. Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to occasionally re-examine your path to make sure that you are still walking with the Master. You’ll know if your feet step in the mud. It’s His way to nudging you back on the path.
There is a certain section of my walk where a micro-blast or mini tornado took down dozens of trees. Their remains are piled high along the sides of the walk — a reminder of staying on His path in a storm. As I walk past these trees, I remember how many times He has saved me from destruction, whether from a physical storm, spiritual attack or merely a bad choice. The fallen trees remind me of some of the battles He’s fought for me and won.
The Bible is full of references to paths. Two of my favorites speak about how the Lord wants you to walk in paths He prepares ahead of time. In Ephesians we are told, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”* How wonderful is that! God has already laid out a path of good works in which He wants us to walk. All we have to do is listen for His voice about which path to take. It makes complete sense when you remember He created our inmost being. He knows how our talents and gifts will best be used before we are even born.**
Often, like this morning, the Lord sends me down a path on my walk that is different than the one I had planned. Several summers ago, I enjoyed the company of two young otters merely because I obeyed His voice to walk in a certain direction that day, one that I was not intending to walk. Other times I’ve sensed Him sending me to a different forest in which to walk and was rewarded with a migrating bird or finding a new beaver dam or quiet place in which to meditate.
Sometimes we are asked to take a path that requires trust. In the nature preserve, the pathways are dirt and often littered with rocks and roots of trees. This was also true of some of my mountain hikes. You need to pay close attention to where you are walking so you don’t trip.
The path you’re on right now may challenge you to be courageous, put you in a battlefield, or drive you to your knees in prayer. When this happens, I am reminded of a passage that was given to me high in the clouds on an airplane by a woman who loved Jesus. She exhorted me to commit it to memory, which I did. It has proven to be a faithful friend in a variety of tough situations.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”***
We all desire to walk a straight path. Sometimes it’s not easy. But that’s why we have a wise and loving God, someone we can count on to point us in the right direction.
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Psalm 16:11 NIV
*** Proverbs 3:5-6