I recently had to stop in the road because two little dogs had dashed into the street. One crossed the road, but the other got confused and was wandering. I prayed for the poor things, but then I realized what they’d been after and was floored.
A large dog was jogging beside a woman. He stayed right at her side, never seeming to even notice the little yapper that was chasing after him. He never broke stride, never looked away. He was doing EXACTLY what he’d been trained to do.
And he was carrying his own leash. Literally. He held it in his mouth as he jogged down the sidewalk beside a woman who obviously had total trust in him. And the two made me think.
In a sense, we’re all like that dog. God calls us to run along beside Him, but though He gives us a guide (the Word and the Spirit) that He could use as a leash to control us, He ultimately leaves the decisions up to us. What do we do? What do I do? Do I actively choose to walk faithfully beside Him, not turning to the right or left?
We all face mountains. The question is, how do we face them? One man starts up the mountain without worrying about its height or terrain, trusting God to lead him every step of the way. Eventually, he pauses to glance around and sees he’s made it halfway up without even realizing it.
Another man stands on the dark side of the mountain, with no light to reveal its features or face. It is fearsome and he shivers at its base in terror, not daring to put one foot in front of the other. Yet if he waits for the sun the truth of the mountain will be revealed and his path become clear.
It is not the mountain itself that matters, but how we face it. If we trust in God with all our hearts and refuse to rely on our own, faulty logic, if we turn to Him for direction at every step, He will show us the right path to take.
For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace…
Here, in five words, is a principal I was taught years ago – follow peace.
It is the rule I adhere to when making any important decision. Yes, I follow forms of reason and logic as well, but peace has the final say because I have learned that God speaks through peace – and the devil cannot.
Recognize this – for it is foundational. Over and over Jesus, the Prince of Peace, promises us His peace. We are assured that while our minds are stayed on Him we will be in perfect peace (I’ve experienced this while touring the inside of the fiery furnace!). On the other hand, confusion and doubt, worry and fear – these come only from Satan.
So, in the end, finding the path is a fairly simple thing. When faced with a decision, needing to choose between two things and failing to recognize the obviously right option, I choose both – one at a time.
My doctor told me I was pregnant and immediately informed me that he didn’t deliver babies anymore. I was instantly thrown into turmoil, not knowing who to go to, who I should trust with the delivery of my child. I began researching my options, which I had recently learned included midwifery, and writing out the pros and cons of each. Even so, I was still unable to make a decision. Then I remembered what I had been taught – “Be led by peace” – and decided to decide, and in deciding to see where peace might be found.
I decided to go with a doctor. Almost before the decision was fully made, my insides were churning. To say there was no peace would be to make a gross understatement.
So I decided again – this time to make an appointment with the midwife I’d been hearing about. Peace flooded my soul in that very moment.
I will not say the decision is always as clear. Sometimes both options bring peace. Since God authors peace and the devil cannot, I take this as a sign that both options are equally acceptable to God and the choice really is my own. Sometimes neither option brings peace. When this occurs, I start looking around for a third option, one I’d either not considered or had cast aside earlier. If there truly is no third option I look to myself, seeking out anything in me that might be blocking the peace God sends my way.
What I find could be fear, unforgiveness…any number of things, but put simply it is sin. Once I’ve dealt with the sin and go back to the options, sincerely choosing each in turn, one will almost always inspire peace, making itself clear as God’s choice.
I’m an organizer – a list person. I love researching my options and listing the pros and cons of them all, organizing my thoughts to the tiniest detail, but when the rubber meets the road and the decision must be made I would much rather let He Who Knows All make it for me, and then lead me forth in peace.
Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
God taught me the truth of this verse in a way I never would have anticipated, and will never forget.
I was in prayer. I don’t remember what I was praying about, but considering the lesson He gave me, I was probably complaining about not being able to see what was coming down the road. I’m not proud of the fact, but it’s true – I am Tammy Plan-ahead Cardwell and not being able to see what’s over the next hill has been known to drive me nuts.
So there I was, pacing, which I often do when I pray, and God answered me. “Tammy, you don’t have to see the road ahead. You don’t even have to see the next step. I see it all clearly. Trust in Me instead of your own sight, lean on Me instead of your own understanding and I will make your path straight even when you walk in darkness.”
My response was, of course, both brilliant and inspired. “Sir?” Thank God for His patience!
Have you ever felt God smile? I did, then. I could easily sense His loving, understanding amusement. “Close your eyes and walk.”
Now, it’s a scientific fact that one side of a man’s body is dominant over the other. Close your eyes and start walking and, given enough space, you will walk in a circle. I was in our church and didn’t have that much space; I veered and walked into a pew.
“Okay,” He said, “you’ve seen what happens when you walk in your own understanding. Now close your eyes and walk again, but this time listen to Me as you take each step. If you let Me lead you, putting your feet down where I tell you to, I will make your path straight.”
I followed His instructions exactly, though it felt terribly strange. In putting my feet down exactly as He told me to I felt as if I were taking each step wrongly – very wrongly. I had to fight my instincts, literally, every step of the way. He eventually told me to stop and look behind me, to see the path I’d taken. I had gone further this time – taken more steps – and the path I’d walked was as straight as if I’d had my eyes open and a line to follow.
I wish I could say I learned the lesson right then and there. Well, I did, but it seems I have to keep learning it. Just as I had to fight my instincts with every step I took in that walk, I must fight my fleshly instincts with every step in the walk of life. Sometimes it’s hard to trust in the Lord will all my heart, not letting even a small part of it hold back. I must continually remind myself that my own understanding is faulty and can’t be leaned upon – that it will lead me to walk in circles (like the Israelites in the wilderness!). Finally, flesh fights for what it considers its fair share, insisting I acknowledge it in all my ways, rather than Him. Still, I’m making progress, and every once in a while I’ll sense God smile as He says, “Now stop and take a look behind you, and see that I have made your path straight.”
So…no…I do not have to see the road ahead. I can even, as I trust in Him with all my heart, lean not on my own understanding and acknowledge Him in all my ways, walk a straight path through total darkness.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Prov. 3:5-6
Trust seems so simple – until God asks us to take a step we don’t understand. We naturally want to see the path ahead, but God doesn’t want us to walk naturally; he wants us to walk supernaturally.
One day, when I was grumbling about not being able to see the path ahead, God taught me a shin-banging lesson. He told me to close my eyes and walk from where I was to a specific spot. I tried, and of course I swerved off course and bumped into something. Then He took me back to the beginning, had me close my eyes again, and told me exactly how to place my foot with each step. It was awkward. It felt all wrong. I was hoping no one would walk in because I knew I looked stupid. But…thanks to His detailed directions, I ended up exactly where He told me to go.
God did exactly the same thing for Gideon in Judges six and seven. From the point at which He had Gideon’s attention and willing obedience, God gave him specific instructions for each step he would take. In Judg 6:25-26, God didn’t merely say, “Sacrifice a bull.” Instead, He told Gideon exactly which bull, precisely how to pull down his father’s altar, and in detail how to sacrifice the bull.
This was only the beginning, of course. God continued to give Gideon detailed directions. Had Gideon chosen to bypass any of them, or fudge on even one, the outcome would not have been the same. Israel may not have received her deliverance.
Nothing great in our Christian walk, outside of a supernatural move of God, comes of itself. It comes as a result of the individual starting out on the right path and taking each and every step along the way exactly as God commands.