I love paths, roads, trails, anything that takes me to a place I’ve never been before, and often I stay on a trail a little longer than expected because I can never resist discovering what is just around the far bend in the distance. In fact, I have a tradition that I didn’t realize had become a tradition until a few years ago. I take a Christmas hike in the snow any time I can find snow. It makes any familiar trail look brand new. But I don’t always get snow, so I don’t depend on it. I still get out there. That’s one of my favorite celebrations of Christmas.
Getting outside and following some kind of trail–be it highway, dirt road, or foot path–draws me closer to God. It’s where I commune best with him, and the farther I am from civilization, the closer I feel to God. I feel safe following a hiking trail, perhaps because I always believe I’m in God’s hands at that time, and whatever happens won’t be out of His will. But that’s just me. You likely have other ways to commune with Christ.
Have I ever gotten lost? Oh, yeah. My pet phrase several years ago was “One-hill-short-of-the-trail.” That’s because, when I would take friends hiking with me, I didn’t always take a familiar path. Sometimes we would have to go cross-country down to the nearest creek and follow it out to the next road. I was always saying, “I think the trailhead is just over this next hill.” I never lost a friendship over it. In fact, when I was dating Mel, I let him get me lost one Sunday afternoon.
He was new to hiking and didn’t know the hills like I thought I did. He chose a different direction from the one I’d have chosen, and we ended up wandering around in hills and forests I didn’t even know existed–for hours. We were totally lost. I tore the seat of my jeans, he got poison ivy and pulled a muscle, and we did begin to wonder if we would get back to the car before dark. We even stopped and prayed at one point because I honestly had no idea which direction we were headed. I liked Mel so much by that time that I was really frightened that I might have convinced him I wasn’t the right person for him.
I was late for a Bible study class that evening, and walked in to hear someone praying for my wayward, selfish soul because I was obviously not dedicated enough to God to get to class on time. Oops. She would have never understood that I’d been communing with God all afternoon. That’s not her fault. Not everyone shares my passion for hiking.
Mel didn’t judge me so harshly. He proved to be an adventurous hiking companion, and has proven to be a wonderful life companion.
I feel the same way about life that I do about hiking. I like new trails to explore, and I like to experience new places and situations. Our move away from our entrenched home in Southwestern Missouri after living there for decades has been fascinating, challenging, and has sometimes made me wonder if I’m getting too old for all this change. I’ve learned a lot, met wonderful new people, and discovered that there is life outside out own little world in the tiny town where we lived our whole married life. I’ve also discovered that the challenges of exploring new frontiers (for us) has enriched our marriage.
But how about you? We’re drawing close to a new year, when some of us will set out a strategy for the future, make resolutions, even make some life changing decisions. Is there something in your life you haven’t yet explored fully? Is there a virtual trail you haven’t followed that makes you curious about what’s around that far bend?
You might be looking for a special book to read, or you might be deciding on a life mate. You might be moving to a different house, even in a different town, or perhaps a different state. It can be frightening if you aren’t accustomed to moving a lot. Mel and I were both born in western states and moved with our parents to SW Missouri when we were children. Boy, did we ever encounter culture shock. That experience has served us well because we know there are different ideas and attitudes in every region of the country. Change can be difficult in ways we can’t imagine, but it can also bring new life to our hearts. It can give us new vistas to appreciate, even some wonderful surprises.
If you’re dreading a change of any kind in your life, give it to God first. Ask Him to guide you each step of the way. If you delight yourself in Him–talk to Him, share a relationship with Him, listen to Him, read His word–then He will give you the desires of your heart. I’ve discovered that He knows the desires of my heart much better than I do. I’ve found this to be true in some of the most painful, frightening times in my life. He hasn’t left my side. He won’t leave yours. Walk with Him into that change and rejoice.
Have a wonderful, blessed Christmas.