The trail started out very clearly trodden, even though blanketed with a recent layer of leaves. Every so often a white, spray-painted mark on a tree would confirm that we were still on track, even after climbing over tree trunks that lay across the path and sloshing through pools of mud (some subtly concealed until stepping into them). Then we reached a point where there was no clear direction forward. Off to the right appeared to be an overgrown path down toward the creek, but that did not seem to lead us to our intended destination. I went back to the place where the trail became less evident, and found a white mark on one of the trees as would be visible to someone coming the opposite direction. That provided the general angle of approach, and after scanning past trees and pushing aside branches, I saw another white mark. My cell phone rang; my husband, who had explored the side path until being attacked by thorny branches, asked where I was and if I’d found the trail. I told him to come back to where it split. We had the general trajectory, and spent the next fifteen minutes walking a little way, then again reexamining our direction, starting to move forward, then searching for another marker, or an alternative way to get past briers and muddy trickles of water. In some areas where there were a couple of seemingly viable options, markers were placed closer together and helped us choose the correct route. Occasionally we would pull out the GPS to see if we were headed in the right general direction, even though the path itself was not visible on the map.
As we walked, I thought about the similarities to our life walk. There are times when the path seems clear, despite an occasional hurdle. It is when there appears to be no clear route that we stop and search for direction. When walking for some time without seeing any signs, we question if we’re on track, if we’re going the right direction. When getting tangled in branches of distraction or sinking into the mud of messy details, we have to make sure we’re not getting lost. The destination is already set, but without seeking markers, we could easily veer off and find ourselves at an impasse.
Looking at the white markers, it also occurred to me that we were walking by faith. We knew nothing about the source of those marks, who put them there, how reliable they would be, or what their true purpose was. We simply assumed, by faith, that someone had marked those trees with our best interest in mind, to guide us toward our intended destination. There was no way to “prove” the existence of such an entity (although the unlikelihood of white marks appearing on trees by chance was easy to defend), nor could we be sure of the destination prior to arrival. How were we to know it wasn’t a prank taking us to a horrible trap? Again, there was no reason for such pessimism, but there was a certain degree of blind trust when walking through areas where no clear trails were evident. Fortunately, those white markers successfully guided us to the end of the trail, proving their integrity.
Reflecting on the parallels with life, I came up with two applications: the ultimate destination and the uncertainty of decisions. Choose your own conclusion and comment on it below!