We walked by the river every day. There’s a path, well-marked after years of use by fishermen and now by us. Many times, the man took the clippers to clear thorny vines and encroaching brush as we walked. He carefully kicked aside sticks strewn from the wind while he watched and explained the changes in the river. The path became easier for us to walk and easier for the fishermen to get to their favorite spots along the bank. In the sandy area of the path, he carved a heart with our initials. It survived many rainy days under the canopy of trees.
Eventually we navigated to the end of the path, the place we always stopped to take our last look downstream. I could barely see the remnant of an obscure path made before the branches, brush and fallen trees blocked the way further. It was that last look that always intrigued me. What’s further downstream?
I wanted to start clearing the path. I wanted to see beyond the obstacles and tangle of vines, and the uncertain way around the bend further downstream.
The man had cautiously checked it out. The bank had worn off, making it treacherous footing, and there was a log too large to move that we would have to climb over. We calculated it would take a lot of determination to open that path. We might gain a foot or two each day.
I questioned my own heart, “Isn’t it enough to just enjoy the path as it now exists? After all, it’s not our river nor is it our path. When we clear it further, the fishermen will just follow it to other spots previously cut off to them.”
The wind was calm when I stepped outside early one morning. I could hear the geese calling in the distance, and all the birds were singing their “it’s time to wake up” song. I hurried and laced on my water-resistant walking boots. I was determined to start clearing that obscure path further down.
We walked by the heart he drew in the sand, on by the tiny bluet flower blooms, and by the familiar rocks in the slowly rippling river. The sunshine was brilliant on the water, so the man stopped and took a picture. I kept walking toward the end of the familiar path.
But I was surprised. He had already cleared the last one hundred yards that were so infested with branches and weeds. He had taken a shovel and made a narrow path on a steep slope to the river. He had even made a way and showed me how I could climb over the big log! The bank at the end seemed too steep, but he took my hand for the last steps down to the river’s edge. With just a few more steps on the rocks only partially under water, we were out on the large rock covered sandbar protruding into the river. The rocks were full of fossils. The sun was shining, and my heart was leaping. Smiling and laughing, my arms raised in victory. And, of course, the man took a picture.
My life is like that path. I can walk it every day and observe the little changes. I can stay on the safely worn path.
But my heart cries out for more. I want all God has for me with this man. Just like the path further downstream, I want to start clearing it…a little each time we walk past the heart in the sand. I want to see what’s further downstream.
And, if God calls us to just maintain a path of life that will bring joy to us and others, we will do our best to be faithful to the task. If, however, in this latter season of our lives, He calls us to open up a way further ahead that time and adversity have obscured, where others failed to keep the path open, we will do our best to be faithful to the task. We ask Him for wisdom and innovation, and the determination to see what’s further downstream.
Show me your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me. Psalm 25:4-5