A friend confessed he’d gotten lost recently. It was a nice day and he decided to walk to an appointment several kilometers away. To avoid busy streets he’d cut through a few neighbourhoods and should be there in twenty to thirty minutes.
He set off and twenty minutes later was surprised to discover he was back near his starting point. It hadn’t seemed like he was going in circles, but that must have been the case. Frustrated, he went home and got the car. The destination was much easier to reach when driving.
Later, this friend asked his wife to accompany him so they could figure out where he’d gone wrong. The route confused her, too. Then she saw a sign that would have pointed him in the right direction. “Did you see this sign?” she asked. “It would have helped you”. “I noticed there were signs but didn’t bother to read them,” he replied.
This was more than an amusing story. It was also an example of how easy it is to go astray when I don’t pay attention.
Signs to point me in the right direction are often all around me. The question is, do I pay attention or ignore them, assuming I know how best to reach my destination? Maybe the detours and stumbling blocks are there for a reason.
Even when I have confidence in where I’m going and how to get there sometimes the route is unfamiliar causing confusion. It’s easy to get disoriented and go in circles. The result is a lot of time and effort spent to get nowhere!
The only solution is to pay attention. This is easier said than done, but I have learned it’s the only way to keep on track.
The image was quite striking. The concrete steps had what looked like a supporting frame on either side. Other than that, there was nothing attached to join these side pillars to anything else. The stairs were on an angle, tipped backwards into the sand. Abandoned.
I wondered what this scene had once looked like. Were these steps that led out to a world of adventure and later back to the safety and comfort of home? Did they watch children go over them to play on the beach? Maybe they welcomed guests to an outdoor patio gathering. There are many stories I could tell myself about what they had been. I have no way of knowing the real story.
Now they were a sad sight. They led to nowhere.
I could go over them and around them and still be basically in the same place. My steps would be wasted as they would lead nowhere.
This was a visual reminder of what can happen to me if I’m not careful. Without clear direction, my dreams of what life can look like remain only dreams. The plans I have for my life will not be fulfilled.
I think of times I’ve been disappointed when what I had worked towards did not bring about the results I’d hoped for. Sometimes I’ve abandoned my dreams the same way these stairs on the beach had been abandoned.
There is a better way. My direction needs to come from the Lord. I can make all of the plans I want but until I trust the Lord to determine my steps, they may be getting me nowhere.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)
We planned to stop for gas in a more populated area. However, when the gas light came on, we knew this wasn’t going to be an option and took the exit for the next small town.
The first thing we saw as we entered the quiet street were two dogs were running down the middle of the road.
When we drew nearer, one of the dogs moved to the left shoulder. The other stayed on the centre line. We slowed down to pass this animal but it had other ideas. The dog stayed close to the front wheel, barking as if it were chasing us out of town.
This dog was fearless and kept up with us for several blocks. We didn’t want to risk hitting it and it quickly became clear the animal and not the vehicle was setting the pace.
The dog did not give up until it was satisfied we had been chased far enough away. Only then did it stop.
I wondered about the times I have been on my way to a calling the Lord has given me, only to encounter a version of this barking dog. The obstacle could be disguised in many forms. The only certainty was the desire to change my direction. How did I react?
Did I slow down, unsure if I should keep going? Perhaps I turned around, thinking I might be on the wrong road. Or, maybe I prayed for guidance and kept moving forward.
My friends, we face an enemy who doesn’t want to see us succeed in the name of the Lord. He has already been defeated but does his best to convince us he is in control. This is only the case if we believe the lie.
He would not be nipping at my heels if I weren’t a threat to his plans. When I remember this I am not easily chased away. Instead I increase my focus on the Lord, knowing I am definitely on the right road.
“Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 NLT)
It sounded so easy when I heard the directions. “Turn left at the corner, another left at the first light and that will take you back to the highway.” My friend said.
Confidently I set off, thinking there would be no problem in finding my way out of this unfamiliar city. That was my first mistake!
My sense of direction is not good. That’s why it took me so long to realize I was heading in the wrong direction. My concern now was figuring out how to get off of this very busy highway and back to where I needed to be.
It was then I remembered the portable navigation system sitting in my center console. It had been there all along. I’d just been so sure of myself that I hadn’t bothered with it.
When I stopped and engaged this device I was soon guided back in the right direction. My journey had been delayed by more than 30 minutes by my foolish mistake.
The lesson in this was not lost on me. Many times I have found myself without clear direction. When proper time hasn’t been taken to confirm my course, I’ve ended up racing the wrong way, feeling lost and unsure how to make the necessary correction.
Although Jesus is always available to help me, I’ve been guilty of thinking I can figure out my own way. When I forget to rely on him the result is not good. Jesus is my navigation system. My sense of direction may not be accurate but he will never fail me.
Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. (Psalm 25:4 NLT)
One minute I was walking beside my husband and the next I was on the ground. It happened so fast that I didn’t realize I was falling until I hit the ground.
Loose gravel on a slight slope had been the cause of my tumble. We’d walked this area several times over the previous days and I’d never noticed the gravel. I hadn’t noticed it this time either until it was the cause of my fall.
Fortunately I landed on the grass beside the paved path. This cushioned my fall somewhat. Things could have been far worse.
I had instinctively put my arm out to brace myself as I collapsed to the ground. Initially I thought that my sore wrist was the only injury sustained. Over the next few hours an ache started in my shoulders and continued down my spine. This little fall had a bigger impact on me that I’d realized.
If only I’d been watching my steps this accident may have been prevented.
In my everyday life I also need to watch my step.
When I don’t have a firm foundation to stand on there is a good chance I’ll slip and fall. It may not be physical but the consequences will be suffered just the same. Poor decisions can cause a unpleasant reaction that I don’t see coming. Seldom will I be the only one affected.
My firm foundation is built on a close and personal relationship with Jesus. When my focus is on him my steps are secure. The danger comes when I cease to rely on him.
The times that I am not looking to Jesus are the ones when I still stumble. Through his love and grace he provides a safe landing place and protects me from the fall.
The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand. (Psalm 37:23-24 NLT)
When I walk along the beach I often see groups of shore birds. Their colouring blends in with the sand and seaweed. When only a few are together they are difficult to see until startled into flight.
It’s fascinating to see a dozen or more of these birds scurrying along the waters’ edge. They move as one. With no audible sound to instruct those behind, every bird swerves to one side at the same time. Suddenly all will take flight.
I think of times I have followed the crowd as these birds do. If I blend in with them and my surroundings I won’t be noticed. I stop thinking for myself and blindly follow.
There have been brief periods this has worked for me. Other times I’ve followed where I shouldn’t.
The only one I should follow is Jesus. He will direct my path. At times he will have me walk with others. Then there are the times it feels like I’m on my own.
When I stop to think about it I am never on my own. Jesus is always with me. The solitary times are when he is walking closest to me, giving me rest and teaching me what I need to know for the journey ahead.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 NIV)
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:8 NIV)
I’ve just returned from a conference in another city. This is a city I don’t normally drive in so didn’t know my way around. While there I had to find my way to three destinations, all in different parts of the city. This was accomplished with the help of a navigation system.
I had gone online and printed out directions, but since I was traveling alone it was difficult to read them while driving. The navigation system took much of the stress out of driving in an unfamiliar area. In a calm, clear voice, it would let me know when my turn was coming up and which way I would be turning. All I had to do was enter my destination into the system and it took care of the rest for me.
On my drive home I reflected on this navigation system and realized that I have a constant one in my life. Jesus not only guides me, he knows the destination before I do. My role in this is to stay tuned into him and to follow the directions he gives me. By coming to him frequently in prayer he will lead me in the best route from my life. He constantly watches over me so I know that even if I make a wrong turn, he will navigate me safely back to where I need to be.
The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8 NLT
One of the major roads in our city was undergoing road works. This caused a portion of the road to be closed. Instead of traveling their normal routes, drivers were faced with a detour that took them through residential neighbourhoods. This caused an unwelcome delay for countless motorists.
I looked at the large flashing arrow pointing to the detour. The road beyond was torn up and there was heavy equipment working. Several ‘Road Closed’ signs had been set up. All of the warnings were there to tell me that I couldn’t take this route.
There have been times in my life when I thought I knew where I was going, only to be met by an unexpected detour. The route I intended to travel was closed to me. This led to confusion. The detour would take me through unfamiliar territory which would slow me down. Not only was this inconvenient, it was also disorienting.
The direction my life was to go had been planned. Now everything changed. My initial response was to worry. What if I got lost and couldn’t find my way? Then I learned to trust in Jesus. I soon found that His direction for my life was far better than any route I had planned. Sometimes the detour would show me new things I needed to know. Other times it would lead me in an entirely new direction. Instead of focusing on what I thought I needed, I learned to pray to Jesus for guidance. If I was on the right route, I would ask that the way be clear. I would also ask him to close the road ahead if it wasn’t where He wanted me to be going. He is the one that knows my final destination and know the best way to get me there.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
It was a lovely spring day. The sun was shining and the warmer temperature had melted the snow. We set out for a walk, keeping in mind that the paths may still be wet and muddy.
As we walked and talked I stopped paying attention to the path and sometimes walked right through large puddles. I also discovered that when I focused on things off to the side of the path, I would find myself moving in the direction I was looking. When this happened it made it difficult to actually stay on the path.
My husband and I talked about this and realized that it was a mirror of our lives. It is very easy to get so caught up in things around us that we lose track of the path we should be following. This can take us through some uncomfortable situations until we find our way back.
Jesus has laid out a path that he wants me to follow. When I focus on where he wants me to be, I am not as easily distracted by things around me. I see the obstacles and hazards before they become a problem. My path may not seem as wide as the ones others around me are taking, but I know there will be many opportunities around each bend. This is the path that leads to fulfillment and life everlasting.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:14 NIV