Saturday, January 9, 2016

A Year of New Trails

One of my favorite trails begins at the far end of a mountain road.  It is beyond where the pavement disintegrates into a gravel lane which is rarely frequented by cars and barely passable when two vehicles meet one another.

At the trailhead, the main trail surges ahead to the left.  This trail is a popular, highlighted on maps as a favored destination for hikers.  The sign for it details the mileage to other adjoining trails.  One trail leads to another.  You know where you are going.  Running alongside a meandering stream, this familiar trail has been a place of enjoyment for me over the years..  "He leads me besides still waters; He restores my soul." (Psalm 23. 2-3)

To the right of the trail sign, a narrow pathway appears, unnamed and unmarked on any map.  It doesn't look like it heads anywhere at all, but just wanders a bit, perhaps only to a dead end, I surmised.  I had never gone that way before.

One day, while my husband Bill was fishing alongside the gravel road, I headed for a short hike on my favorite trail.  As I began, my eye spotted that overgrown unmarked path to the right.  "I wonder where it leads," I thought.  No harm in checking it out, no shame in finding it goes nowhere at all.  At least I would know then.

I took the unnamed fork in the trail, instead of the familiar one.

The trail was initially flat, and I ran the first quarter mile through a collection of trees and brush, not too sure that this was a good idea after all.  Had I taken a trail to nowhere?

About the time I was ready to return to more familiar terrain, a narrow footbridge appeared ahead of me.  It was not sixteen inches wide and spanned over a whitewater creek, splashing against huge boulders.  It was an unexpected place of beauty.

My dismal attitude of "what if it doesn't lead anywhere?" had become a joyous discovery of "what I have been missing all these years!"

I couldn't wait to bring Bill here to this secret spot, bypassed by the throngs of hikers, a perfect place for him to fish and for me to relish in its beauty.  When he came with me later that afternoon, we traversed the bridge and found that on the other side, the trail continued.  We hiked even further into the forest about another mile or so.  The trail finally ended at a rushing waterfall that looked like laughter pouring down a rocky slope.

I have been thinking about that fork on the trail at the beginning of this fresh new year.  This year, do I follow God on an unmarked passage, or just stick to the comfortable, convenient trail with no surprises?

And even if it doesn't appear to lead anywhere at all, God uses that too.

God grants me that choice every day and every new year, a trail that is not even on the map, or not even a consideration on my radar.  Sometimes that trail emerges not on a frontier, but right where I am.

Am I willing to trust Him even when I don't know where He is leading? 

Where is the adventure in that?

If I want things to be different, something has to change.  And that would be me.

How can this new year be different?  What if I laid this year (or even this day) before the LORD and see where He takes me in it?

And as I encounter old familiar speed bumps and impossible mountains, I can choose which trail to take:  trust God or wrestle with anxiety.  Which trail do I choose in this situation or relationship or problem?  Trust or fear?

What may look like a wilderness is really a place of His faithfulness, the beginning of astonishing things I never even knew existed before.

Therefore I tell you,
    do not be anxious about your life...

              Matthew 6. 25

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