Updated: Mar 14
18th August 17:49, Ashburnam Place.
A few weeks ago I felt the strong urge to leave the city and go on a retreat. I felt like the wilderness was calling me. Spooky! I know. I genuinely felt the need to leave my familiar surroundings and go to a place of peace and serenity, a place I hadn’t been to before. In truth, I think my entire being was yearning for alone time with God in a place that was built for God. Hence, I packed my bags and decided to go away. Now, in classic Tumi fashion I chose to come to a place in the middle of nowhere. When I arrived I found that I was surrounded by nothing but the woods i.e. trees, deer, cows and everything in between.
After unpacking I decided to go on a walk to explore the grounds. As I wandered around I opted to use the normal pathway which had been paved for guests to walk on. However as I continued my journey, I stumbled on another path, an unfamiliar path – one that led into the woods. I was at a crossroad – do I try something new and go down an unclear path leading to the unknown? Or do I continue down this known path which is safe and predictable?
Now instinctively, my inner self said “don’t go on the unknown path, it’s not safe, it goes into the woods, nobody has plotted a way within this place, it looks like a dead end, are you bonkers?? Stay on this current path which is clearly carved out?!!!”
The clearly defined path We all love the 'a predictable path.' I love having the comfort of knowing the path I’m on has been tried and tested and it works.
The unknown path Notice how the path into the woods is so faint. Only eyes who are alert will spot this. It also looks slightly dark doesn’t it?
The woods Take in the surroundings: no clear path, broken trees, logs on the floor etc. What lies beyond?
Now you see once those thoughts came into my mind I actually felt fear creep in. The irony! Bang smack in the middle of God’s own grounds I’m feeling fearful! I was about to walk past, and then I challenged myself. I said “what’s there to be afraid of?” I decided that I would get off the known road, venture off on the unfamiliar path, and enter the woods.
On entering the woods I realized that indeed, there was no path. Clearly nobody travelled using the way I had opted to try. I looked ahead and from a distance I could see the sunlight shining brightly on a beautiful hill. From where I stood it looked like a hill filled with a myriad of flowers, lush grass and more. I thought to myself “that looks so beautiful”. I also noticed that this hill was on a higher elevation making it even more alluring. Given that the hill was on an elevation that would mean I would need to endure the woods, muddy grounds, some logs, and all sorts of icky stuff in between to get to the top.
But as I pondered on the need to reach this beautiful hill, my rational mind stopped abruptly when it realized the difficult climb I’d need to take to appreciate the hill top view. After this realization I chickened out and said “I’m in Nikes so nah, no climbing for me today.”
As I left the woods and walked back to the clearly defined path I realized that this is how life works when God is moving you to a new level or new place.
To make myself comfortable with my decision of walking away from the unknown path, I convinced myself that the point was to see a bit of the woods and not to become Tarzan. As I made my way through the woods towards the clearly defined path I realized I had lost my way. I started panicking! “God, why did I leave that path, now I can’t even find my way back to where I know! I don’t want to be stuck in the woods wandering for hours on end.” Do you know what I heard? “Follow the light.” Let’s pause and let me tell you something: I absolutely love God with my whole being. He is so sweet.
So I took a deep breath and stopped focusing so much on fear (which by the way exists only in our minds) and instead looked up, following the light above the trees for direction. In doing this, I used this light as a guide and found my way back to the clearly defined path which I had ventured off.
Here’s what I learnt from this experience:
In life God may take us off a known path and send us down an unfamiliar one
Before setting off you may experience fear and resistance and that is OK. However take a deep breath, trust God, and do it afraid.
Given that it’s unfamiliar, chances are it will feel new and you will be uncomfortable.
In the woods i.e. in our uncomfortable situations, we will encounter tough moments evident by the muddy path, logs and the overall surrounding I was met with. However we can find peace if we rest on God hence why He said follow the light.
Sometimes we may need to try different paths before we get to that beautiful destination (spoiler alert: I did go back inside the woods to climb the hill! However I had to try multiple paths before I was successful in reaching the top).
The place God is taking us is probably beyond our expectations evident by the allure and beauty of the hill I was attracted to.
Given the hill was on an elevation I was required to climb to reach the top. The “climb” refers to events which God uses to sharpen our character so that we are prepared when we get to the top.
After successfully navigating out of the woods, I questioned my reason for not wanting to climb the hill. Did I really blame my shoes as the reason for not wanting to climb the alluring hill? So you know what? I sucked it up and decided I will go back into the woods and climb. I will go through the mud because I want to see the view. So even though I almost fell (multiple times) and the soles of my shoes were muddy, I got to the top. The best part was I did it afraid, held God’s hand and climbed. When I got to the top the view was even more amazing than I expected. Beyond the beauty at the top, I was also comforted by the fact that I was not where I used to be. FYI, not everyone who climbs to the top will be met with total beauty. Sometimes, the top of the hill may be filled with a combination of weeds and flowers. In such situations it’s important we remember that even though it's not perfect we made it to another level. It’s not only about the destination, but acknowledging that you’re not where you used to be. Being on a higher level is worth celebrating!
So I hope this speaks to you deeply. Climb. Follow the light and keep climbing. You may slip and fall, but never stop climbing. I can guarantee you that when you finish climbing with God, you will come to an entirely different level – in your job, in your relationships, in your faith, and it will be beautiful!
One more thing – What does follow the light mean? To follow is looking to something or someone to guide you to a destination. God has the path, the plans and the complete vision. He knows the layout of the woods and the animals within. That means we need to lean on him for direction.