Following the Trail

Siyeh Pass Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
Siyeh Pass Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

I’ve decided that I love New Year’s on social media.  For those two days (New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day), most people set aside bickering, political posts, and hot topics to wish everyone a happy 2022 or 2021 or 2023 or whatever the new year is.  Most of them go on to give some sort of blessing to all of their friends.  It’s a time to bless one another with hopes and dreams for a good year.

Maybe not sunrise on New Year's Day, but pretty close!  Big Bend National Park, Texas
Maybe not sunrise on New Year’s Day, but pretty close! Big Bend National Park, Texas

I love it.  It’s like the world suddenly turns into a blessing generator with no one cursing each other, hating each other, and putting each other down – at least for two days.  It’s fun to scroll through my feeds on various social media and accept each person’s blessing as my own, from simple, “Happy 2022, y’all!” to longer blessings that could almost be prayers.

An old barn along the Genesee Valley Greenway near Belfast, New York
An old barn along the Genesee Valley Greenway near Belfast, New York

One of the hot new year blessings this year was an infographic that wished everyone that their “trails be well marked.”  I had to laugh – I’ve been on a few of those trails that aren’t so well-marked.  It’s hard to follow a trail you can’t find.

Mt. Shuksan from a vague trail on Skyline Divide, Washington
Mt. Shuksan from a vague trail on Skyline Divide, Washington

But then there are trails that are easy enough to follow.  We know where the trail is.  But for whatever reason, we don’t follow it.  Maybe we’re looking for something we know is off of the trail, or maybe we’re just tired of the trail.  Maybe we think we can do better than the trail-makers, so we cut a switchback or take a different route.  Sometimes we just decide to do a variation and walk off of the trail intentionally.

Winding Queen's Garden Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Winding Queen’s Garden Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

You see, there’s a difference between knowing where the trail is and following it.  We can say, “Oh, I hiked the Vista Trail today,” but what we really mean is that we ended up at the vista by our own route.  We knew where the trail was, so we got there our own way.  That’s not truly hiking the trail, at least in the strict sense of the words.

Walking up the trailless Upper Darby Canyon, Jedediah Smith Wilderness, Wyoming
Walking up the trailless Upper Darby Canyon, Jedediah Smith Wilderness, Wyoming

When God gives us a promise or a glimpse into where He is calling us to go, it can be easy to get to the destination and say, “I followed the Lord where He led me!”  Sometimes we really did do that.  But other times, we knew where the trail was, where the destination was, so we rambled our way on our own route, maybe, not following the actual trail to the place we knew we were going.

Trail?  What trail?  En route to Honan Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Trail? What trail? En route to Honan Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

That’s not always sinful.  We walk by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7) so at times we may feel like we’re crashing and bushwhacking through the forest more than following a trail.  But God has a trail for every one of us from the point we’re at now to the place where He’s taking us.  We can know where the trail is and how it goes – but if we don’t decide to follow God’s trail, we can take some pretty round-about ways (and sometimes much more difficult ways) to get to the same place.

Third Beach Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington
Third Beach Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

If we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will always stay on His trail.  It’s when we let our eyes go to the end goal instead of the Reason for the goal that we’re tempted to hop off of the trail and take a “better” way.  God always must be more important than the promise.

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