Two Paths: Discover the Way that Leads to Life Excerpts from Introduction: The Journey Ahead
Somehow, I took the wrong path and ended up far from where I wanted to go.
It was a beautiful spring day, and our family was visiting my mother in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. My teenage daughter, Lorelle, and I decided to spend the afternoon hiking up Mount Finlayson, a relatively short but steep hike with a gorgeous view of the Olympic Mountains across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Lorelle is always game for exercise and adventure and was happy to leave the planning details to me—and the carrying of our pack with the water bottles and snacks. We drove to Goldstream Park and started up the trail among towering Douglas firs. I had to stop several times to take photos—a compulsion of mine. The path started out steep and then got steeper, but after about an hour of scrambling over roots and rocks, we made it to the top, took some great photos, and enjoyed a less-than-healthy cookie snack.
Before leaving home, I had checked an online map and had seen a loop we could take around the back of the mountain on the way down. It was somewhat longer, but it looked interesting, so I suggested we go that way. Lorelle liked the idea, and we began our descent. Counting on my good sense of direction, I knew that staying to the right would provide a clockwise route around the mountain and back to where we parked.
Unfortunately, we kept coming to trails I thought we should take, and they were blocked off and marked “closed,” I assume for repair. I had no paper map with me, but I trusted my instincts to find the way back. However, it wasn’t long until I realized that my strategy of staying to the right was not working. We seemed to be walking in the wrong direction.
Eventually, the trail unexpectedly came out on a road, and I had no idea where we were. So I belatedly decided to check a map app on my phone. Sure enough, we had gone far out of our way. As the crow flies, we were literally about twice as far from the car as we had been on the summit! Fortunately, using my phone map, we were able to find our way along the roads back to Goldstream Park. However, my misdirection cost us almost an extra hour of hiking—on what should have been less than a two-hour hike!
I still don’t know exactly where I went wrong on that hike. I’ve since looked over the maps, and I have some theories. All I know is that I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. I stood at a crossroads, a fork in the trail, and chose poorly.
I love hiking, and I’m so blessed to live in a part of the world where hiking trails abound. There are hundreds of great trails within an hour of where I’ve lived for the past eighteen years in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Yet in my adventures, I have discovered that not all paths are equal. Some lead to wondrous vistas and views, interesting rock formations, beautiful waterfalls, and incredible scenery. Others are much less interesting, and some are even quite dangerous. Certain paths start out looking promising, but they slowly dwindle to nothing or take you farther from your desired destination.
It’s so easy to go the wrong way! I’ve often taken wrong or useless paths, only to retrace my steps. Other times, I’ve followed a trail that reviewers enjoyed, only to be disappointed. Sometimes my chosen routes have taken me into difficult circumstances, and occasionally, they have led me into unexpected danger.
Life’s decisions are a lot like choosing a trail. There are options all around us as to where we will go and how we will spend these few precious years on this planet. The challenge is knowing where to go and what to do with that time.
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Once, when camping, I found my way to an outhouse in the middle of the night. The sky was overcast, the area heavily treed, and it was pitch black, so I relied on my flashlight to see the path. I must have gotten turned around on the way back from the outhouse, and I started down a trail that didn’t lead back to my tent. I experienced momentary panic as I realized I had no idea which direction to go to get back on track.
Even with my little flashlight, I could barely see the trail and didn’t know where it would lead. Fortunately, even in my sleepy state, I was sensible enough to turn around and head back to the outhouse. I then tried to remember what angle I had walked to it from my tent, and I eventually found my way back safely. I must admit, however, that it was somewhat disconcerting and even a little frightening. I would have been in a difficult situation if my flashlight had lost power.
I’m so glad God doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves in the dark. He hasn’t simply given us life and breath and said, “Okay, people, now you go figure it out. Good luck!” Instead, he has given us wisdom from his Word, his Spirit, and his people to guide us. We don’t have to guess where to go or how to live. We can know his will and the paths he wants us to take.
God’s Word in Proverbs tells us, “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure” (Proverbs 4:26). Ponder. Consider. Think about the path you’re on and where it’s taking you. Wisely decide where to go. Proverbs also says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12).
The alternative to thoughtfully and wisely choosing our steps is to carelessly go wherever seems or feels good and right. That’s a path that leads to death! We have but one life to live. That’s it! Then we enter eternity. Not only is our destiny at stake, but the quality and meaning of our lives. It can so easily be wasted if we choose unwisely.
The following chapters will take us on a journey through scripture and real-life experiences to illustrate the way of wisdom and how to make choices that will result in a full, productive, and meaningful life. I pray that God’s Spirit will use this book to help guide you in his ways.
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