Hiking (and Living) Right
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
For months, I have been planning this week’s hike with my son. Way back in February, I began looking at maps and on long winter days at work, I would dream of warmth, sunlight, and the sound of the wind in the pine trees.
Sometime during the first half of our 13-mile hike though, the fun wore off. Though we could see our goal from the outset, it never seemed to get any closer and the trail wound back and forth, sometimes going in the wrong direction. My son and I grew angry at the trail-maker. Why can’t the trail just go straight? This isn’t fun anymore.
In the labor of hiking, my gaze turned from the goal – hiking to the top and enjoying the experience – to my immediate discomfort. I lost sight of where I was going and why I was going there. It was not until I began to wish that I was back in my office – in February – that I was able to see that my focus was stealing my joy.
This is the message of today’s passage to me. In it, the author insists that every day, in every step we take, we must keep our eyes on God. When we fail to do so, we turn our gaze to self, causing our own misery.
In all your ways, means literally that. In every step I take, I must ask, Does this push me towards God or towards myself? How should I spend my time and money? How does God want me to love my family? How should I treat people at work?
The passage insists that when we do this, our paths become straight. I doubt this means that God eliminates all of our problems – though life certainly simplifies when we stop creating our own disasters. What it means, is that when we follow God instead of self, we embrace joy and peace, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
On the hike, keeping my eye on the goal did not flatten or straighten the trail, but it did bring me back to the joy and wonder of just being there with my son.