Matt loved going on hikes with his 10-year-old son, Henry, and today's weather was ideal for their adventure. With their backpacks loaded and a water bottle in hand, they set off on the trail. As they followed the winding path, Henry dutifully trailed behind his father, maneuvering through tree branches and clambering over rocks and roots. Along the way, they chatted about Henry's school life, friends, and favorite sports teams.
As Henry continued on his hike for a couple of hours, he began to feel weary and his initial enthusiasm faded away. To make matters worse, he noticed a blister forming on his left heel, causing him to fall behind as he slowed down. The trail was becoming increasingly dense with the surrounding forest as they moved deeper into the woods. His father, Matt, attempted to engage him in conversation to keep him energized but Henry's breathing became labored and he declined, "I don't want to talk right now, dad." In silence, Henry watched his feet as he followed the trail closely. He had to stay focused on the path ahead while contemplating the difficulty of the hike and how fatigue was setting in. As he hiked along the trail, he suddenly realized that he had lost track of his dad. Panic started to set in as he looked around frantically, but couldn't see his father anywhere. He tried listening for his footsteps, but there was complete silence. In confusion, he scanned the area unsure about which direction they were headed. Just when he was about to break down into tears, he called out in fear, "DAAAAAD!" as loud as possible. A moment later, a reassuring voice answered back from somewhere nearby - "Henry, I'm right here." Looking to his right, Henry saw his dad pushing his way through the trees as he came toward him on the trail they were following. "There you are! I was lost and couldn't find you, " Henry said. "Well, you might have thought you were lost, but I knew where you were," Matt replied. He hugged his son and said, "Let's take a break and get some water before we head back." "Sounds great," Henry said, "I also have this blister on my heel." Matt pulled out the first aid kit and put a bandage on his son's foot. "There we go. That should help you get home comfortably, " Matt said with a smile.
After a brief rest and rehydration with snacks and water, they resumed their hike to follow the trail. Matt put his arm around Henry and suggested, "Let's stick together this time to ensure you can see me while we navigate the trail. And let's continue talking to assure you of my presence."
This narrative is a powerful illustration of what it means to follow Jesus. At the start, we are frequently talking with Him, in close proximity and thrilled about the trek! However, as time passes and life unfolds, our fervor, drive and sense of direction wane. We begin to slow down and inadvertently allow circumstances to obstruct our relationship with God. Our communication with Him dwindles. We get disoriented and may even lose our way completely. We feel shattered, hurt and distant from God - like hikers who have lost their way following a wrong turn.
Does any of this resonate with you? Perhaps you find yourself in that place in this very moment. It's important to be honest with yourself. How far do you feel from God right now?
Although you may feel tired, depleted or lost on this journey let me tell you the great news, GOD KNOWS RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE. All you have to do is call on Him and He is as close as the mention of His name. Psalm 145:18-19 says, "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him. He also will hear their cry and save them." Psalm 34:18 says "He's close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." He will be right there when you call on Him. I know you've gotten some bumps and bruises and maybe even more than that, but be encouraged, Psalm 147:3 says that, "He will heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds."
He's going to give you what you need to continue on this Christian faith walk. The road can be treacherous at times, but if you stay close to God and keep talking to Him, he's gonna lead you and guide you until you are all the way home.
No matter how distant you may perceive yourself from God, it is possible to call upon Him at any moment, and He will respond. Alternatively, perhaps you don't realize you have strayed due to consistent church attendance and ministry involvement. Regardless of the situation, make a renewed commitment to follow God's leading every day.
We used to sing an old song at church that said, "I"m going through, I'm going through. I don't care what the rest of the world decides to do. I've made up my mind. Ain't gonna turn around. I'm walking with my Jesus saying, 'I'm going through.'"
Let that be your declaration today.
Lean in to Life. It’s messy, but beautiful.