It was the perfect Saturday: sunny, temperatures in the low 60s, and the air crisp with the early scents of fall emerging. Best of all, we had no formal agenda beyond a trip to the state park and a picnic by the lake. It was my kid’s first real hiking experience, and since they are young, my husband and I initially guided them down the main, broad trail. They loved it for all of two seconds before they recognized all the smaller, narrower paths branching off of it. “Can we go this way? Can we go this way?” They asked at every opportunity.
We finally came to a less-narrow side path and agreed to venture out. My kids were amazed by moss and acorns, and to say that they were thrilled by the opportunity to climb a tree with dad would be quite the understatement. There would be no going back to the main path for us.
We continued along a smaller trail that turned out to be a relatively dangerous path for youngsters who weren’t far from rock edges and steep cliffs. While we made them promise to stay close and hold our hands, I don’t think I have ever seen my kids more excited about a walk. My husband and son led the way, my daughter in the middle, and myself at the rear of our line, in perfect position to soak up every bit of the memory we were making, leaving it impossible to deny how closely the moment must parallel our walk with God.
Life along a big, broad trail that so many other people have walked on is usually safe. It also can be comparatively stale, leaving us curious about side adventures, almost like we were made for them. Traveling out on the narrow path that few have walked along is exciting, and perhaps at times, terrifying. But my two-year old son showed me how to handle it. Along our journey that day, at every other step, he kept asking, “Dis way, Daddy? Ok… Dis way, Daddy? Ok…” and all I could think was how pure and simple of an example my child was setting for me in my walk with Jesus. “This way, Jesus? Ok… This way, Jesus? Ok…” You could hear nervousness in his voice at times, but as long as he got the okay to keep going, the direction trumped his fear and he continued on. He trusted the direction, because he trusted his daddy.
Some scriptures say that God is right behind us, others say that He is ahead leading us, and still more talk about how He holds us by his right hand. I always assumed it was because The Spirit surrounds us, being both before and behind us at all times, near enough to always be in His hand. Maybe that’s it. But as we walked the path that day, I saw those scriptures in a new light. Times when the path was most narrow, closest to the cliffs and most dangerous were the times that my husband had my son’s hand, ahead of him and leading him along. All my son had to do was stay with him. But when the path became more sure, further from danger and more obvious, my husband walked behind my son, letting him enjoy the excitement of the trail while still remaining just a step behind.
Maybe when life is most crazy, most terrifying, most uncertain, God is holding us by the hand, walking ahead, leading the way. And when life settles a bit, routines abound and maybe even seem boring or mundane, God is right behind us, guiding and encouraging every step. We just need to keep checking in. “This way, Jesus? Ok.”
Either way, the narrow path is the one that we belong on. It’s the one we were made for, the one that leaves us dependent on the guidance of our creator. It will be our biggest adventure and likely terrifying at times. But whether we’re being guided from ahead or encouraged from behind, we’ll have the strong hand and steady voice of our Heavenly Father at every step.
I am the Lord your God who leads you along paths you should follow.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.
Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you… I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand…
For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.”
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name, you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you… you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.
Stepping In: What is comforting about these verses? What’s hard to believe about them? What do these verses describe as being true about God?
Journeying Further: Where has God led you in the past? Praise Him for the ways you have seen him work in your life. What’s difficult about where He is leading you now? How do these passages remind you of the truths about His character?