October 14, 2012

The Path Lies Before Us Not Behind Us

My father once returned from a pharmaceutical conference in Research Triangle Park, the trio of North Carolina cities, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, brimming with pride that although he was driving in front of another pharmacist, he had successfully followed the other driver from the conference venue to a dining establishment by watching his rear-view mirror and making turns where he saw the driver flip on his turn signals. My dad was quite proud of his accomplishment; he had saved face, withheld disclosing that he had no idea where he was going, and disguised his dependence. In this case my dad got lucky.  But who would adopt this navigation strategy on a regular basis? Just think of the inefficiency, potential complications, and stress. There must be a better way to get where we aim to go.

Our visible outward lives often imitate our concealed spiritual lives.  Protective of our pride and sense of control, we willfully get ahead of God’s design.   We venture out on instinct and human understanding, deluding ourselves that we have no need for divine guidance. We tell ourselves that we’ve got our life plan mapped out, we are entitled to freedom of choice, and are commanders of our own destiny.

But who is really the chump in the rear-view mirror story? Is it the enlightened one who knows both the destination and the path to get there or is it the short-sighted one who proceeds ahead of the leader with a penchant for gambling?  The deficiency of the one in need does not disappear in the shadow of his inflated ego.  He must continually consult the rear-view mirror for damages to indicate the correctness of his moves.

When we are dead set on doing things our way, what resort does this leave a loving God? It compels Him to knock us down, to put obstacles in our path, and enforce resistance to hinder us. Sometimes He allows us to learn the hard way; accumulating wounds, regrets, and burdens, things which will continue to teach once the season has passed. He doesn’t elect the most painful approach first, but will come around to it when necessary.  Expecting God to bless our mess after we’ve done things our way is not how He works.  He demolishes mess and then rebuilds.

God has set His plan before us not behind us.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” ~ John 10:27

• God’s sheep follow Him. They don’t lead.

• They accept no other guiding source but Him alone. Not friends. Not culture. Not self.

• God’s sheep are listeners. They seek His voice which is well documented in scripture. God’s word is not elusive or complicated. It is simple and free-of-charge, albeit straight and narrow.

We need not blister our hands taking a sickle to the briar patch to cut a path of our own. We have a faithful guide, a Father even, who removes the sickle from our hands to hold our hands instead.  He ushers us safely down a path which only He knows.

I encourage you to fall in line behind the Good Shepherd to discover the work He’s doing in your life. It is not intended to be revealed in the rear-view mirror.

“This is what the Lord says . . . Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43: 16-19

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