I don’t recommend walking alone. I mean sometimes going for a solo walk is an absolutely necessity but there are other times when directionally challenged individuals should not be released into the wild. Even if they have a map.
Case in point…
I went out on our local Greenway this morning after delivering children to buses and schools. Normally I would be just fine on the Greenway because my son would be with me and we would be on bikes and would be staying on the main nice wide paved path that we travel regularly. However, the lack of male child and being on foot instead of wheels inspired me to take a risk and explore “pedestrian only” paths I hadn’t been on before.
Detour #1. I took a branch of the trail that put me out beside a very busy, but still sidewalk lined main thoroughfare a fair distance from my starting point. I knew exactly where I was and how to get back to the path but the walk to the reentry point was long. The trip from reentry back to my car would have been even longer. So I turned around and doubled back.
Detour #2. My second attempt at branching out lead me straight to a dead end. I could see on my GPS that the trail ended but I dismissed the map. Surely the trail didn’t end that abruptly! They just hadn’t updated the map to reflect the trail that just HAD to be there. I got to the end of the trail and I could see where I wanted to be but wouldn’t you know it? The map was right. There was no trail connecting me to my destination. So I turned around and doubled back.
Some people just don’t learn. I was almost back to my original starting point and car when my curiosity got the better of me. Someone had told me that there was a great hiking trail around the mountain bike path right at the entrance to the Greenway park so I thought I would “find” it. I saw an entrance to the bike trail and took it. I could see from the park map posted that the walking trail should be right beside me but I didn’t slow down to determine which trail matched the walking trail I wanted. I just marched forward.
See that sign on the left? It was followed quickly by the sign on the right. Now a sane person who had already failed that this “off the beaten path” exercise would have retreated immediately right? For starters, I was a pedestrian using a mountain bike trail. Not just a mountain bike trail but one that was open this particular day which greatly increased my chances of getting run over. And the most difficult trail available. But you know that first sign just egged me on. “Be prepared to finish. There are no bailout points.”
James 1: 2-9
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
As I was wandering around in circles on the most difficult path never made for feet, I thought about grief. I don’t have a clue how to grieve. There isn’t a checklist for this. There isn’t a map to tell me what is coming up or if the trail is going to lead me back to the beginning or if it’s headed to a dead end. But I know that I can’t avoid this path. I know that it is going to be a long process. Longer than I want it to be I’m sure. There are going to be times when I think I can see the end but there is no way to get there from where I am. I will have to backtrack and face emotions and thoughts and memories.And heaven knows there are no bail out points on this process.
I am encouraged by James in this. I don’t know the answers to this current trial. I know that it will eventually build me up and help me help others. That much is absolutely certain to me. Verse 5 gives me hopeful assurance that God will provide me with the guidance I need – the GPS so to speak. I laugh at myself when I get to verses 6-8. It was almost as if God walked beside me as I ignored the map with the clearly defined dead end.
I’m sure there are others who are finding themselves off the beaten path and facing a struggle they have never seen before. I encourage you to take the long walk. Work the whole process and look to God for your guidance and direction. Don’t ignore the clear indicators along the way and please, don’t bail out. Work it all the way through so that you can live in the promise and rest of verse 4.
4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.