One thing I love to do is go hiking in the mountains. Unfortunately, I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I’d like. A friend from church just set out this weekend to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail, and while that 6 month undertaking is probably not ever going to happen to this city boy, I have to admit, there’s a side of me that’d love to try it!
A few years ago (too many, now), my friend Kevin and I went hiking up in the mountains of NC for a couple of days, and had a blast. One thing I learned really quickly is the concept of following the path that had been laid out for us. There were some really hairy places (one was a nearly straight wall of jagged rock we nicknamed the Razor’s Edge), and if you didn’t keep your feet planted firmly on the right spot, you could get quite messed up.
Even out on the “easy” portions of the trail, the parts that simply meandered through the woods, you had to keep on the path. As anyone who’s ever tried it knows, if you get off the trail in the woods, you can find yourself lost very quickly. Trees really aren’t good landmarks, you know. They kind of look the same when you’re surrounded by them.
You learn that whether the walking is tough or relatively easy, you have to stay on the path. It’s necessity. You trust the map, if you will, the path that’s been laid out by others. And what’s true for hiking in the woods is even more true for our spiritual walk:
“Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:26,27
Are you considering where your steps are taking you today? The thought you’re not taking captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5)? The website you’re thinking of visiting? The too-friendly conversation with the person in the cubicle down the hall? The “friends” that are talking you into doing things and going places you know you shouldn’t? The drink you know you can’t have? The TV show that you’d never watch in front of your kids?
All these things are “steps”, paths that we take each and every day. One small step may not seem so bad, but left unchecked, left uncorrected, and you soon find yourself lost in a place you never imagined you’d be. It happens, and it happens fast. You get turned around, and get so confused, you can’t find your way back.
Praise God, He clearly laid out the path we should stay on, and the Way back! When we’ve wandered off the path, our Shepherd comes to find us (Matt. 18). If you’ve found yourself off the path you know you should be on today, if you’ve strayed to the right or to the left, cry out to the One Who not only knows the way, but IS the Way. He promised to never leave or forsake you, and His promises are true.