I love to walk in the woods. One of my favorite places to walk my dog is like a little patch of heaven. At some points, you can actually believe you were miles and miles away from everything and everyone – even if it is just an illusion. Most of the trails are simple trails cut into the woods by countless feet. Other places, however, are covered in boardwalks because they traverse swampy areas. It is nice not to get your feet wet while taking a hike. Some people stay only on the main boardwalk and miss the small bridges scattered throughout the woods helping hikers over watery paths. Never veering off the beaten path, you might assume that the whole way was laid out easily for anyone who came along. It isn’t.
It’s really more like life. If you follow the boardwalk only – you can have a relatively easy time. There may be an occasional dog poop on the walk that some inconsiderate person left behind or a dead mouse, but mostly it’s clear. The way is pretty enough, lovely even, but not breathtaking.
However, if you stray from the boardwalk following some ancient trail marker, you may find yourself traipsing over stones, rocks and roots, climbing up steep hillsides, traversing narrow winding paths, and resting glorious solitude. There may be places where the path forward is unclear. There may be other spots which are treacherous or overgrown. There may even be places where the path splits and you must choose between your original route or adventuring on to another. You might even find yourself veering off to a path that leads nowhere and having to return again to where you went off track. Maybe that seems scary, perhaps even dangerous; it is definitely more work than walking on the carefully cleared and built up boardwalk, but the extra effort is so rewarding. The adventure is exciting. The views are miraculous.
I have spent very little of my life on the boardwalk. When I have walked there, I’ve more often than not, found that the expectations of enjoyment, fulfillment, or success have not measured up to the realities. The woods call to me. Finding some jewel which few else have discovered is incredibly enticing. The glorious feeling comes not because I have what no one else has, but rather, because enjoying some hidden path, is like unwrapping a present when you have no idea what’s inside. Working harder, breaking a sweat, makes you feel like you have accomplished something. The difficulty increases enjoyment. Your senses come alive, and you notice everything. When you’re walking on the path, you can be tempted to only half pay attention to the trip. When the way is laid out so clearly, you can take the beauty of the trip for granted. But, when you must watch every footstep, peer ahead around the rocks, trees, ancient walls, tangled thickets, and hilly terrain, you have to pay attention. You remember the journey. You appreciate the journey. The journey itself becomes as captivating as the destination.
That’s what I want for my life – for the journey to edify my soul as much as being able to look back at the end and seeing how far I have come. I want to breathe in every chill, hear every footfall, snapping branch, or rustling leaf, see every overturned stone, brilliant clearing, or light in the thicket. I want to be thankful for the ups and downs, arounds and throughs, and remember every step.
Psalm 119:133 Order my steps in your word….