Sunday Night Musing: Trudging through the Wilderness

You remember when you were of smaller stature than you are now and you would try to walk through deep snow? It took a lot of work. You'd pull one foot out, lift it over the snow, and try to place it a short distance in front of you, but it was arduous. And you had to keep repeating that pattern to get anywhere.

But then, if you came across someone else's tracks, and you walked in their grooves (especially if a parent made them), it was much easier.

Maybe a winter scenario doesn't relate to you (our resident seminarian at church who preached tonight shared a story of snowshoeing and coming across someone else's tracks which made it much easier). Many times I have hiked through the woods and been on a path of my own creating. It's fun. It's adventurous. But after a while it gets tiring to keep scrambling over downed trees, pushing aside branches, schlepping through miry wet spots, or forging a path through tight brambles. I breathe a sigh of relief when I finally come back to a real trail.

In Isaiah 43:19 God says, "I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland" (NLT). It's that same sort of image--suddenly there is a way. You know for certain which direction to go and the traveling is much easier. You don't need to be parched anymore. Refreshing water is available. 

Right now I'm at a point in life where the way doesn't seem too clear. Once my wife is finished with her doctoral degree in a few years, I'm not sure what my career path will look like. I'm not sure where we'll be living. Will I be back in ministry or will I be able to do more writing? Will I be the one in grad school pursuing a degree so I could be a professor some day? And if so, in what? Will we still be living in a city or will we finally be able to move back to the country? 

So I like the thought of God making a pathway through the wilderness. When I try to make a pathway on my own, I end up in bad places sometimes. And it's a lot more work. But Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." 

Still, it's not always easy not knowing where the path is going to go. I want a clear, well-defined route. When I drive somewhere, if I look at the route on a map ahead of time, I can generally get there very easily. But we're not often given that clarity. Just a promise and hope along with the general directions (love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself).

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I really like one other piece of Isaiah 43 that we heard in church tonight: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" (43:18-19, NIV). God's not saying to not pay attention to the past at all (right before this Isaiah reminds Israel of God's faithfulness in making a way for them through the Red Sea during the Exodus); He is saying that the sinful cycles of our lives, the bad decisions we've made, the regrets we have--these do not define us and our future (especially in God's eyes). He is going to do new things in our lives. 

So while I have a hard time with not knowing the path ahead, I rest well in the knowledge that is a good path. On it will be freedom, forgiveness, mercy, and love. And with that ahead, I can keep moving forward.

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