Archives For path

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Someone asked me the other day how I knew when God was telling me to do something specific, or to follow a certain path.

My answer was that, more often than not, I’m rarely fully sure. I have times when I think I know what God is saying, but it’s never 100% clear, and there’s always a part of me which worries that I’m just convincing myself that it is God’s voice rather than mine.

All in all, it’s a very confusing business.

***

Looking back, the times God has guided me haven’t been signposted by Damascene moments, accompanied by bright lights and a booming voice.

Instead, I can look behind me and see a series of doors which have opened for me, and some which have been closed. I see conversations with people, things I’ve heard at church and passages of Scripture all fall together into a path which I’ve followed, even though at the time I didn’t relise I was following it.

Rather than tell me from the start where I’m going, God instead seems to prefer leading me one step at a time.

The difficulty with this is that it results in a lot of uncertainty. For a lot of my journey, I don’t know where I’m going. But I think it’s partly so I remember God en route. If he was to tell me the path, tell me the destination and tell me the obstacles I’d encounter on the way, I wouldn’t need him as much. I might remember things he said, but I wouldn’t rely on him.

I’d rely on me.

By taking me through one door at a time, guiding me step by step, God teaches me to rely on him. Trust him. Follow him.

Don’t get me wrong – I’d love for him to speak louder sometimes.

But he knows what he’s doing.

***

Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We’ll wander back and home to bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.” Mercedes Lackey

I’ve started to notice myself use a dangerous expression lately. In fact, it’s quite a common phrase, and one most of us will utter many times a day without realising.

If only.

“If only I hadn’t been made redundant from my last job.”
“If only I was more like that guy.”
“If only I could do this/that/the other better.”

If only.

***

The reason I think it’s so dangerous to say if only all the time is because it means we forget or intentionally want to reject who we are in God’s eyes.

If I mutter, “If only I could be more like Mr X”, then I’m dismissing the person God made me to be, the child he created for his purposes. Mr X may be incredibly strong and have an excellent ability to lift weights, but he isn’t me. He isn’t who God made me to be. He’s Mr X.

It applies to our communities as well. “If only we had these people involved”, we say. “If only more people came to this.” To say these things is to ignore the people who God has brought to us, the people who God has drawn into our communities to surround us and grow with us.

If only makes us always want more, rather than recognising the blessings already around us.

***

I get that sometimes, things don’t work out how we expect them to. And I don’t for a minute want to suggest that it’s wrong to be upset when things go pear-shaped, or that we shouldn’t long and pray for greater things.

I didn’t expect to be unemployed this summer. There have definitely been times when I’ve thought, “if only that job had worked out”.

But then I wouldn’t have seen all the things I have this summer. I wouldn’t have been able to spend the time with friends and family that I have, wouldn’t have been able to figure out what my long-term dreams are.

If only doesn’t help me realise my dreams, it only forces me to feel like I’m constantly under-achieving.

***

So my challenge is to stop myself from saying if only. I’m not quite sure how best to do it yet (I might treat myself to one of these each time I stop myself), but my intention is not so much to lose a phrase as to gain a better and richer recognition of all God has done and is doing in my life.

I’m under no illusions – I’ll probably fail often. But I think it’s worth trying.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“The hill pines were sighing, o’ercast and chill was the day. A mist in the valley lying, blotted the pleasant May.” Robert Bridges

***

I stand at a fork in the road. Despite thinking I knew where I was headed, I now am unsure. There is a heavy mist descending, an ominous soup smothering the world. Birds that have spent their day singing beautiful choruses are silenced. Even the power of the wind is tempered, reduced to a whimper.

As I stand smothered in the damp cloak of mist, there are two options. From where I stand, both look identical. Neither looks particularly inviting. To take either path would be to advance into the darkness, to disappear into the unknown. But I must take one path.

Then, in the distance, barely visible through the mist, a light. So faded it is hardly there at all. Sitting at the end of one of the two paths, this tiny pixel of hope draws me in. Offers me reassurance, direction, a sense of peace at the decision I am about to make.

I will choose the path with the light at the end.

***

Quite often I feel like my journey with God is a bit like choosing a path in the mist. I don’t often get to a crossroads and find God there (or an angel) with a neon sign pointing the way.

More often than not, it’s a case of looking for the faint light. Sometimes it can take what seems like an age to see the light.

Even when I’ve seen the light, it doesn’t make the rest of the journey easy. For me, it’s often still misty. It clears from time to time, and when it does it’s incredible. But then the mist descends again.

I’m starting to realise some things about God and the mist. Realising that just because he’s not there with a neon sign, doesn’t mean he’s not showing me the way. In the mist, I have to listen more. Use other ways of hearing from God, rather than me storming forward without thinking, only to take the wrong path.

***

Maybe God sends the mist to teach me. And maybe the mist is just part of life. In reality, it’s probably a bit of both.

Whatever it is, I’m learning to find God and follow God in the mist.