“If you were lost in the woods, what would you do to get out?” My “pre-internet-cell-phone” 4th grade colleagues conferred on the playground.
After lunch we were suppose to come back and give our answer. I had the best answer ever. Smugly listened while holding my precious answer close to my chest as they crafted their elaborate plans. Signal fire? Hah. Climb a tree? Haha. Timing for optimal impact, I blurted out my answer and waited for the applause: “Just keep walking!” Can I get an amen!
With one skillful stroke of a master marksman my teacher shot an arrow through my bubble of brilliance! “How will you know if you are walking straight!” Wait. What? My 4th grade mind was blown as I attempted to crawl into my desk as I pondered in shame…I could be walking in circles?
I have known forests. Pathways that are faint, unmarked, and hazardous. There are times where it seems like I am in a forest wandering…circling…wondering if I am walking straight. At a young age I gave my life to Jesus…hoping that things would start going better. And it did. Sure I made some mistakes and circumstances blocked the path or at least made it less easy. But for the most part the path was good. Deeply desiring to obey God and do what is right…I make elaborate plans to make sure I am no the straight path. I put up railings, refer to the compass, follow other more mature travelers. But there are still times I am lost. People let me down, circumstances knock me down, and I blow it and fall down. There are even times I really do not want to get back up.
This straight path business is frustrating…why can’t I just walk straight? Cause I keep trying…I keep straightening…I keep keeping “I” in the equation. Surrender is hard…yielding inconvenient…trusting leaves me vulnerable. Why is trust so hard? I known I my head that God is fully able and trustworthy. Straight path making is no problem for him. In fact that is the whole point of the Gospel of Jesus. Grace is not about me making my path straight but about yielding to the God who made the way straight. (Check out Proverbs 3 for wisdom on this.)
My straight path is not the same as God’s. In fact being lost in the woods might even be a straight path. Hardship and turmoil I experience on my path…may seem impossible and incredible crooked yet for the God of the universe there is a divine straightness. The 4+ months I spent with my son in the hospital might seem so dark and disastrous but that was the very place His presence declared the straightness. The Apostle Paul sure did demonstrate this. Imprisoned, shipwrecked, shackled, beaten with rods, betrayed by friends, he still says, “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” A straight path is not about my personal comfort or reward. It is not about straightening my way. It is not about my affirmation from others or that I should be fairly treated. No, my path is fully straight when I am dwelling in the very presence of God. It is about God working out his Gospel of grace in the hearts of his creation…opening the hearts of humanity to make paths that are straight. No more wandering aimlessly looking for the end of the forest…but with hope, faith, and peace of knowing that we are able to dwell fully in his presence.
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.” ~ Paul Phil 1:29-30