I got to go on a bike ride yesterday, sort of for fun, but mostly for training. All roads lead to Pleasant Prairie these days...
Anyway, it was mostly sunny, and the trail I was on winds through some parks and fields and is just generally nice. I have never taken the trail to its endpoint though, so I didn't know it would wind through some woods and lead my through some spillover from the recent heavy rains. I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of riding through woods by myself. I have seen one too many slasher movies to not wonder what is lurking in the sun-dappled shadows. At the point of the giant "puddle", which was close to a foot deep, I wondered if I was making a mistake. I managed to pedal through, and am now the proud owner of sneakers perfect for swamp fishing. Up ahead I could see sunlight breaking into the shadows, and knew that if I just pedaled steadily I would be ok. When I did come into the clearing, a beautiful and slightly daunting sight awaited me. The beautiful part was a rolling meadow with two sandhill cranes standing in it. I was close enough to them to hear their warning grunts not to come any closer. The daunting part was an uphill climb, and more woods. Curiosity got the better of me, so I headed up the hill and into the woods. It was as I was heading into these second woods that God began to speak.
I was pedaling hard to get up that hill...totally not walking my bike in front of those cranes and anyone who might be watching. I was thinking about sticking to the path, and how it has lead me through places I didn't necessarily want to go, like dark woods and flooded paths.
The Lord gently reminded me that He is the leader and creator of our paths. Our "job" is to stay on it, to trust Him to lead us through the dark woods and the big puddles that sometimes make our shoes stink. We just need to keep pedaling, sometimes slower, sometimes standing up in the saddle with shaking legs, but keep pedaling, and He will lead us. I did not anticipate the small pond in the path, but God knew it was there. Likewise, we rarely anticipate the occurences in life that will shake us to the core...the illness...the unemployment...the dramas that our kids go through...all these things that leave us wondering "How, Lord? How are we going to handle this?" The answer is always the same...stay on the path and keep pedaling.
Keep praying, even though your knees are shaking.
Keep reading the Word, even though you want to look around for a shortcut through the woods.
Keep listening for the still small voice to drown out the screaming in your head.
Stay on the path.
Jesus promised that in this world we would have trouble. But take heart, He said, because I have overcome the world. He has seen it all. He has conquered it all. And through His victory, we can stand victorious, no matter where the path leads. He has not left us alone. When you don't know the way, remember that Jesus is the Way. Follow Him, and He will lead you to higher ground. He will give you rest.
As I came through the final clearing on my ride, I came out on a summit of sorts. The view was amazing, the breeze gentle on my face, and I would never have experienced it if I had turned around when the path got tricky. As I stood taking a long drink from my water bottle, I thanked God for the chance to journey with Him, to see His hand at work, no matter where the path leads.
When your road gets long, and the way seems dark, and the shadows seem real, listen for the Voice that will lead you home. Let His word be a lamp to your feet, a light for your path. You are not alone.