The road that leads to where I meet some men at 5:30 a.m. for exercise, two or three times a week, is a rocky one. Sometimes, the loose gravel or jagged rocks stick up into the soles of my shoes as I make my way. Ouch! A needed jolt to wake me up before I sweat bullets for forty-five minutes straight. Walking that road is worth it, as is the workout. Nothing worthwhile is easy.
But we forget those four words when we face a rough transition, especially when the road keeps changing and there is no end in sight. But what if the shift is happening to take our soul to a place it needs?
John Eldredge provides some needed insight here. “I think it was Archibald Hart who pointed out that because we are so accustomed to moving pedal to the metal in our own world, the thing we overlook in the Gospels are all of the in-between times when Christ and his followers were walking from one town to another. When the record states, “The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee” (John 1:43), we project our own pace upon it, not realizing it took the boys three days by foot to get there.” (Get Your Life Back)
The down side of reading through the scriptures in a hurry, or in “one year”, which some Christian organizations push, is the tendency to leave out all the “time” in between the verses. Yeah, we’ve got the whole story in our hands, all sixty-six books. We know how the story ends, but the people “in” the story, walked through a lot of rocky roads, craggy transitions, and frequent uncertainty. They didn’t have the luxury of knowing how their story would end. Neither do we.
That reality should help us, and encourage us, to wait on God to intervene in our lives like he did thousands of years ago. But patience is a lacking virtue today, evident in observing how people drive, how they divert their eyes from the person they are talking to—to their phone, and how they request the quick fix of medication to give them the “feeling” of walking on easy street.
In the in-between, or in the meantime, for those of us who choose to walk through those upheavals, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of some down time, the opportunity to catch our breath.
And worshipping God while we walk through uneven paths in our personal, vocational, family, and spiritual lives is the best medicine. So is reading devotionals that nourish the soul, like what Ken Gire wrote:
“Come into my garden Lord. Take your plow and furrow the hardness out of my life.”
It’s a scary thing to pray a prayer like Gire shared, and mean it. I remember the day, six and a half years ago, I walked our neighborhood alone one afternoon. Tired of feeling miserable, I prayed, “God, do with me whatever you want.” A few months later my chest was ripped open so a heart surgeon could give me a second chance at life. An extreme example, I admit. But the Gardener heard my prayer.
Do you doubt that the rocky road you are stumbling on right now will ever be even-keeled? Memorized scripture fused in my brain counters the irritating pebbles of life that want to trip me up, like what Isaiah wrote:
“You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them.” (26:7b, NLT)
So how do you take a beautiful verse like that and make it practical? Here are a few suggestions of what I pray quite often:
“God, if you so desire, (another way of saying ‘if it’s your will’) please smooth out the vocational path ahead of me. Please open the doors I can’t open myself.”
“God, if you so desire, please smooth out the relationship with _________________. I can’t fix it. I’m weary of attempting to iron it out.”
“God, if you so desire, please smooth out my anxiety, so I’m led by You Holy Spirit, instead of my fears.”
Eldredge continues with a question for all of us to consider as we face today, our life, and the road ahead, “I wonder—how many situations that we would call “disappointments,” “hassles,” and “setbacks” might actually be the loving hand of God trying to slow us down for the sake of our souls, and so that we might receive him?” Rock On!
pictures courtesy of pexel.com except for shovel picture: “Nelson & his Nikon”