Over the last week I’ve been thinking a lot about the different paths in our lives. There are many different ways our lives can bend, turn, and wined. The paths we choose to follow shape who we are and who we may become. My late husband posted this divine counsel on June 28th of this year, only about two months before his death, “In a world where chaos, confusion, and justification are so dominate, it is so important to remember which path leads us back home. It’s a hard, uphill path that is less traveled and not popular, but is beautiful.” I’ve thought about his words countless times over the last two months. His thoughts have prompted some reflection about the different paths we may encounter in our life journeys.
The Thorny Path
Last week I took my black lab, Mick for a morning run. Our running routine is usually the same…we run the same three miles and Mick knows our “path” like the back of his paw. He urges me forward and nudges me in the right direction any time we come to a crossroads. Mick knows where to turn, when to stop, and what to look for on our route. He knows if he stays on the familiar path, he will get home safely and be rewarded for his diligence. Mick looks forward to playing ball or snacking on a delicious doggy treat at the end our three miles. However, last Wednesday Mick strayed from the familiar path and into thorny territory…
Mick couldn’t see the thorns camouflaged beneath the sand, but it didn’t take long for him to feel the sharp stab of each tiny one in every paw. Mick made his way back to me limping and wining. I could tell something was wrong, “Did you go into the thorns again Mick?” I scolded. His sad little puppy eyes told me that “yes,” I strayed from the path. I knelt down beside him and lifted each paw and pulled several thorns from each, until they were gone. His sad eyes quickly changed from reflecting pain and discomfort, to reveal the happy, energetic puppy I love…and that sometimes drives me crazy.
I dropped Mick’s last thorn free paw and off he ran… down his beloved and familiar path, determined to stay on that path…never to stray again…well until next week.
How often do we find ourselves on a thorny path? How often do we stray from what we know…even just a little? Like Mick, we may not see the thorns beneath the sand… until they are sharply wedged into our paws. When we are filled with the pain and discomfort of our choices, we can always make our way back to what is familiar…we can correct our course to the path that leads home. We may have to limp for a little while, but the Lord will be there with his arms outstretched…ready to pull the thorns from our feet.
The Uphill Path
One of my favorite hobbies is mountain biking. Ryan and I loved to go riding together and on every ride, He would insist on following me. “I just like watching your behind…I mean making sure you don’t get behind,” he’d joke. I’d smile at his clever quip and tease, “Okay…but just try and keep up!” He’d laugh…insinuating that, losing him in the dust would be impossible.
I’m a little weird and like biking uphill….most people prefer going downhill…but let me explain the glorious benefits of taking the uphill path.
Riding uphill is hard! Taking the uphill path takes longer and often times, I need to stop and rest. But as I peddle up the sometimes seemingly endless hill, I find strength within myself I didn’t know I had. Ryan’s positive encouragement from behind, would push me onward. “You got this Lyss!” “You are doing awesome babe!” “Looking good!” are some of the power phrases helping to me climb higher and peddle harder.
Last summer, Ryan and I went on a quick ride up to the Ogden outlook. It was probably a half hour before sunset and we didn’t have head lamps. We began our ascent up the trail with Ryan prodding me to keep going and peddling. I was tired and wanted to stop, but because we were running out of daylight Ryan insisted we keep riding as fast as we could. I felt like I was going to throw up and part of me wanted to punch Ryan in the face…but we made it up to the top of the trail just in time to see the sunset on the city…the uphill climb was definitely worth my jelly legs and beet red face.
Ryan knew my potential. He knew I could make it to the top even though he had to push me a little. He wanted us to see the sunset…to see the beauty of our uphill climb…to see the bigger picture. As we rode down the hill Ryan laughed and said, “Aren’t you glad we made it…even though you probably wanted to kill me?” “Yes, Ry I’m so glad you didn’t let me quit” I agreed.
The uphill path is indeed harder and less traveled, but beautiful!
The Right Path
This summer we went hiking up the Adam’s Canyon trail in Davis County. The girls loved skipping along the trail and hopping from rock to rock. Ryan would let the girls choose what path to follow when we came to two splitting trails… “Right or left?” he’d question. Most often the girls would choose the path that looked more traveled…the right path. However, sometimes they’d choose the more difficult path, making our hike longer and less enjoyable, but Ryan never corrected their choice to take one path or the other… he wanted to teach our girls a valuable lesson. He wanted them to learn what taking the right path felt like and what taking the difficult path felt like…he wanted them to discern right from wrong.
The marked path is the path we need to stick to and rely on. When we choose the “right” path, it will lead us straight to our desired destination. If we stay on the right path we will avoid those deceiving paths that lead us astray or those that will make our journey more difficult. When a new trail is cut, those cutting the trail survey all possible terrain and then ultimately choose the best route…the path that will safely lead us to our destination. God knows our terrain and he sees the bigger picture and wants us to return to Him by following and staying on the right path.
Our lives are full of paths…it is up to us to determine what path we will take. If we find ourselves amid thorns or far from the path that is marked…we can always turn to the Savior and he will guide us through the thorns…to a beautiful vantage point.