Monday, June 29, 2015

Not all who wander are lost

I went for a little run this morning, taking advantage of a cool breeze and a surprising lack of humidity.  On the tail of a longer run yesterday, I just wanted a short jog through the woods. I chose a new trail, basing my route on seeing a couple of runners ahead of me and a woman with an enormous dog. I would not be alone. It was a shaded crushed gravel pathway that traveled past the back of a high school, grazed along a greenbelt area, and headed toward the local nature center.

Where the trail went after that landmark, I was not quite sure, but I was not planning on going any further than that. 

I didn't have a map, but I knew the general direction.  No big deal.  I had observed runners on this stretch many times as I drove past on my way to Kroger.

As I headed out, I pushed my pace a bit as I was already running a little bit late in my morning schedule.  I jogged past the landmarks and fell into a comfortable stride.  It was a beautiful morning.  Wildflowers decorated both sides of the path.  A small brook meandered alongside the trail.  A man and his dog were running a little bit ahead of me.  I followed them toward an intersection, where I had decided to turn around.

But on the other side of that intersection, a path through an open field beckoned me.  A driver stopped to let me cross the road.  I felt obligated.  "Just a little bit further," I decided.  I should know by now that those are words of trouble.

I passed two separate groups of cross country runners on the ground stretching after their practice.  I followed the trail around a bend and saw a paved pedestrian road up ahead.  It appeared to be traveling back to where the runners were stretching.

As I started up that road, a verse came to the surface of my thoughts, "There is a way that seems right to a man..." (Proverbs 14.12)  And I knew where that verse was headed.  Never a good ending.  But I kept running. "I know where I am going," I lied to myself.  About a hundred feet ahead, that road in "the right direction" suddenly veered a sharp left, heading into unknown territory, definitely not where I wanted to be.

I remembered my friend Maria saying that she once hiked twelve miles before she found her way out of the maze of trails in this park.

I took the next available path to the right and hoped that it would come out in a familiar place.  I looked for indications of those who had gone before me, a groomed trail, a path worn in the grass, and today, the sound of cross country girls laughing up ahead.

Several detours later, a couple of other trails diverging, a signpost that made no sense at all, and I found my way back to my car.

In the Fellowship of the Ring, author J.R.R. Tolkien notes, "Not all who wander are lost."

But today, I was.  No doubt about it.

In my life, I have found myself many times in uncharted lands, in places of wilderness, and on paths that didn't quite turn out as I had thought.  But one thing I know, God goes with me, guiding my way, even into places I may never quite understand.

It is not that God calls me to a certain place,
        or to do a specific task,
but to be faithful.

I just need to follow God into His good purposes and into a closer fellowship with Him.

...that He may teach us His ways
     and we may walk in His paths.

                             Micah 4.2

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