Years ago, a friend and I took a four-day walk on the Appalachian Trail.
There were times when I wanted to call it the Appalachian Trial.
The climbing up was unrelenting in its gasping-for-air exertion. Though it carried the illusion of offering rest, walking down the first few mountains on the famous path was punishing on the knees. Our legs trembled with the exertion and there was only one thing that kept us motivated to finish our brief entry into the world of AT hiking.
We knew where the finish line was.
We would exit our short journey in a secluded parking lot just off a two-lane stretch of Georgia asphalt. A short drive from there was a hiking apparel store that offered hot showers and good food. Every step we took led us directly to where we’d planned to go. It would have bordered on lunacy to have thought the route we’d chosen would have led anywhere else. Every tree or rock with the familiar white markings gave us clear instructions of where to walk. When we detoured off the right path during a rainstorm, we backtracked, found the markings, and continued moving toward the finish line we’d chosen.
The Bible speaks of the choices we make in life as being a “path.”
Moses told his people: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul …” (Deuteronomy 10:12). That “walking in obedience” phrase? Check out the Hebrew. It’s all about the journey. It’s about a trip. It’s about your life.
In a moment of righteous frustration, Jeremiah added his own insight:
This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
You’re on a journey. You’ve chosen a path, whether you want to admit it or not. Every decision you make today is like one more step along that path. Don’t be surprised when it leads to a destination. If you don’t like where the path led you, don’t ask, “O God, how did this happen?” Don’t expect to suddenly be in a new place if you come to repentance after years of walking in a destructive way. God’s grace is available, of course, but you’re not going to miraculously be removed from the law of Path-and-Destination. The debts will still need to be paid. Relationships will still be broken. The penalty will still have to be paid.
Even so, the great good news of the Bible is that a new path can be chosen at any moment along the way. And if you choose wisely, you’ll find the destination you’ve chosen is better than you’d ever imagined.
The shortcut to success? Just follow Jesus, who modeled the very best walk of all.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus once said, drawing from Jeremiah’s path-choosing language, “… and you will find rest for your souls.” (See Matthew 11:28-30)
Don’t like the finish line that looms ahead? Then stand at the crossroads and look. Find the right way, and start walking in a new direction.