These Paths

I did originally plan to name this shot “God Bless The Broken Road” just coz the moment I saw it on my photo reel that was the song that sprung up in my mind ( Note: This is the usual way that my photos get named. )

But in the end, inspiration steered me elsewhere. Besides,  I thought the name didn’t really quite express my intention in the photo. In any case, here is a lengthy and (others might say) hopeless drawn out treatise on what went through my head while I was processing this photo and long after…

We all have places we want to go. That is, we have goals, ambitions, dreams that we pursue. Whether or not they are worthwhile pursuits – is another blog entry. But often times, we find that it takes quite a while to get there.

The images that come to your mind may vary from Israel’s long 40-year-stint in the desert (check) to the journey of the Fellowship of the Ring in Lord of the Rings (check).

Instead of going straight to where we intend, we usually end up going round in circles, meeting with all manner of hindrances in our way, ending up in ditches and dead ends, even finding ourselves walking in totally different directions…

The sad part is that often times, we never realize that we have steered so far away from original course – well, until its too late.

After a particularly difficult bit down the road, we look back and only then can we see what we have just come through: may it be thicket of thorns, a dark tunnel or narrow cracks in some wall that just appeared out of nowhere… All in all, we often stop to wonder to ourselves, “did I really have to go through that?”

I like to think that God and I have a very close relationship – we’re on talking terms. Not the “hi.hello facebook friends” status. We’re “face to face, spit on your face” type of friends. I like to believe that we are well above talking round in circles. Which is why it always frustrates me when I don’t get answers to some of my “important questions”.

My personal (written) journal is littered with ramblings and rants dedicated to one single cry, “why?”

Why me? Why NOT me?

Why then? Why now?

Why here? Why there?

Why him/her? Why not? 

Why…? Why..!? W H Y?!

Thankfully, God doesn’t charge us for our outright gall in questioning the ways he does things. As a much younger Follower, I found it difficult to trust God to lead in certain areas of my life. Years later, I’ve grown in my ability to trust in Him but sometimes, my trust is lacking.

When you’re in the middle of especially hard paths, you will find yourself going from a brave “There is a point to this!”, to a consoling “There MUST be a point to this!”, to a more doubting “Is there a point to this?” and finally to an adamant, “What’s the (bleep) point?!”

But contrary to popular belief, God doesn’t gamble with our lives. He doesn’t make us go through hoops and whatnots just for his divine amusement. I am convinced: Everything. Every little thing – is a piece of a grand plan. We just can’t see it because we’re in the middle of it all.

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  (Acts 17:26)

Our location in place and time – they are all marked out by God. Whereever we are, no matter how “lost” and “overwhelmed” we feel – we are ultimately under God’s watchful eye, our lives under his watchful hand.

You have heard it said that God would never let you have a burden/struggle that you cannot bear. My dad tells me, that’s not entirely true. Sometimes, he leads us to places just to remind us, how much we need him.

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

Whenever things are hard and we cannot see our paths so clearly, we move our question from WHY to WHERE?

Where are you? Where are you, God?

But its not like God “hides” for the purpose of hiding. Its more so that we might pursue with ardor and expectation. He hides in “plain sight”. He builds the tempo up to a climactic FINDING.

The expression that God leads us to walk down the “straight and narrow” is easily misunderstood if we do not consider that God’s perfect plan for our lives is not always the way we decide to walk. Following Christ (who is our True North) will ever lead us straight to God but following our will will lead us to death. The combination of both ensures that the “straight and narrow” feels like a rollercoaster.

I often pray that God would spare some of the younger generation the arduous paths I had to take, the lessons I had to learn the good old fashion “long and hard’ way but part of me knows – that is not my decision to make AND this is the way that life threshes the wheat from the chaff.

So, as I look back at all that I have gone through, I cannot help but think. “Wow God. What a ride. I really wouldn’t like to do THAT again but thank You. For helping me through. For showing me the way. For not letting me go…”

I thank God – sincerely – for these paths He has let me walk on. They help me to appreciate life’s true treasures. They help me edit the way I feel, the way I think, the way I live…

I’m not saying that “all paths lead to God” – by no means! But I do believe, as an old youth pastor had exhorted,

If you obey Him, You will never “lose your way”. You will always find yourself in the centre of His will.

Even if, you are not sure where you “ought” to go. I think the Lord grants us leave to take a step of faith and “fill in the blanks” – to go until he says to stop. Seeking His will, trying to find “the path” he has laid out for me – is no longer an “idle” activity. I find myself walking while waiting. Doing the things that he has already mandated me to do – waiting for further instructions.

If I seek Him, I will find Him. If I follow Him – in the way that He has set out – I will eventually find myself in the Halls of the House he has prepared for me.

I am thankful. Sincerely grateful for the fact that the Lord never decided to make things all drawn out. That He, in his infinite wisdom decided that I was to embark on an adventure rather than a static and boring “non-stop flight”.

Because the reward is not just reaching your destination, but in the sheer joy of having travailed the distance, having passed through the fire of struggle, having fought through the battles, having learned hard lessons, having lived the “full” life that He promised.

My only prayer is this:

That my steps my hold onto your paths… that my feet may not stumble away from them… (Psalm 17:5)

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