|Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in ALL your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:5)
Walking along the road of life enjoying the warm sunshine on my back, whistling a joyous tune and carrying my rule book in my left hand, not a worry in my head, I encountered a sign mid –course in my journey:
“CAUTION: DO NOT CROSS, DETOUR TURN RIGHT.”
Scratching my head, I looked around. No one else was on this way for me to converse; I did not see any difference between the land I was currently following and the land to the right. Why could I not journey forward? What harm would be done? There was nothing that raised concern within me; clearly the sign must have been put there in error. Tentatively I touched my toe to the grassy green ground in front of me, just as I thought it was springy and stable, crouching down I sniffed and touched a tuft of grass, nothing odiferous, in fact it smelled the sweetest scent of green sun touched grass. I stretched my neck to look as far yonder as I could, a beautiful clear blue horizon, billowy clouds, tall green grass, in fact as I inspected the grass I noticed a little red and black spotted lady bug perched on the edge of a green blade studying me as I studied her.
“Don’t do it!” She said shaking a tiny little lady bug finger at me, speaking in a small little voice that I had to lean over with to hear clearly. “Listen to the sign. This pathway may look enticing and wonderful with its deep blue sky and ample walk way, but don’t do it. For it will deceive you, lie to you, make you promises it will never keep, use you and lead you down a way you never should go it knows nothing but deception and is full of self with no consideration to the feelings and heart of the traveler who travels its length. It will take and take and take from you, suck your feelings dry until you have nothing left to give. It does not know how to think of anyone but its own needs and its own self. It is a pathway of deception. Don’t be fooled by its outward beauty. If you saw it with the eyes of truth you would see it as it really is – empty, broken, dark with nothing to offer any traveler, for it can’t even make its own path straight. Follow the right way to go, the one written in that rule book you carry.” She motioned her little hand at my book. “This one is nothing but a mirage of lies that does not know how to tell its traveler the truth. It gives you a pipe dream and just when you have travelled deep within its path it will shatter you into a million tiny little pieces without thinking twice. Its only full of self, and never gives thought to anything else but the way it wants to go. The sign is there for a reason. Heed it beautiful traveler of light.” She fluttered her wings at me and looked up at me with her little face.
I Laughed in delight. “Oh silly little ladybug, you act as if it were a wayward man. It is but a beautiful, sweet, darling pathway! Like none I’ve ever known. What stories you tell!” Then I whispered to her, “Lady bug, lady bug fly away home…” The lady bug looked at me a moment with a shake of her head and a shrug of her red and black dotted shoulders, “I tried to warn you, but you will do as you will. You will come to regret it and my words will come back to you someday.” She flew off into the sky.
I looked at the pathway to see if I could see what she saw and again was tempted by its enticing land. I let my back pack fall to the ground so that I could tuck my rule book safely within the confines of the bag and decided that while I was at it, I would kick off my shoes and place them in my bag as well. I wanted to feel the soft, springy cool grass against the soles of my feet as I went forward on my journey, my mind made up. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. An exquisite day, birds singing, sun shining and all was right with the world. “A caution sign.” I scoffed, “Absolutely ludicrous.”
The scent of honeysuckle permeated the air and my heart delighted at the lovely little fragrant blossoms that clumped sporadically here and there.
“Come walk my length,” the pathway beckoned. “I promise you, I will show you beauty you have never encountered. We will walk this journey together, you and I forever. I will take you places where history has occurred and we will enjoy going back in time and learning of its people. I will never leave you. I will show you love, satisfaction and true contentment. Palm to palm I will never deceive you or let you go. I promise… Come beautiful traveler, we were meant to be together – travel my way, there is much to be seen and we will journey together.” It beckoned to me like an invitation from a lover. I was captivated, I believed it, I wanted it, there was no way I would go any other way, except the way this path beckoned. I followed it a ways, stopping at one point to lie down on my back on the sweet fragrant green grass and breathe in the intoxicating scent. Stretching out my arms luxuriously behind my head to feel the cool smooth grass against my palms and stare up at the clear blue sky and bask in the rays of the sun. “This is absolute Heaven,” I sighed in delight. The best way ever! The greatest decision I have ever made! I should have torn that sign down, to think I would have missed this lovely little way because of it. I wonder how many people have missed out on such a scenic site due to that horrid little misinforming sign?!” I was of a mind to rise up, turn around and do that very thing, but decided against it. “I am a knowledgeable, intelligent being. Capable of making up my own mind and choosing what is right for me!” I mumbled to myself, reluctantly rising up to leave and continue on my way, in doing so I passed by a small pond to filled with scenic flat brown lily pads.
“Are you now?” croaked a response, “Are you sure about that?”
I stopped mid-step and looked around to see where the remark had come from. “Who said that?”
“Me that’s who,” was the response.
My eyes spanned the ground around me and finally located the source.
“So full of yourself, it’s a wonder you saw me at all,” He huffed blowing up his vocal sacs with air, causing his throat to balloon out. I dispersed of my back pack, dropped down to the ground to see him better. There upon a lily pad sat a dark green bullfrog looking at me with disdain in his black little eyes. “Doesn’t it say something in the rule book about “pride before a fall?” He asked.
“What exactly does that mean?” I asked insulted, was this tiny little green creature judging me?
“It means that perhaps you should consider the fact that there may be more to things than what meets your eye. Perhaps you don’t know as much as you think you do. Maybe there was a reason beyond what you could see for that caution sign warning.” He accentuated his remark by extending his tongue and capturing a fly who had mistakenly thought could fly by unnoticed. “Point made and perfect timing. Just as that fly thought he could sneak by me unawares, he was sadly mistaken, to his demolish and to my satisfaction.”
“I beg your pardon!” I said with great indignation. “You are just a little green bullfrog, what could you possibly know that I don’t?!” I rose back up rocking on the back of my heels.
“Is that a fact?” He replied as he watched me rise. “I wouldn’t be so sure of that if I was you, I would try to be a bit more open minded…” With that he extended his long green legs and did a flying leap off the lily pad with so high a jump that the water splashed me full in the face.
“What audacity!” I exclaimed wiping the pond water off my face with the edge of my sleeve. Picking up my back pack, I turned my back to the pond and stomped forward to resume my travels. “Wretched little frog! I hope he gets eaten by a snake!” Onward in my journey I went.
MY life, MY plans, MY schedule, MY way. I had made a plan for my life and I was going forward, confident in that plan. I had made the right decision and as I walked all of my senses delighted in the world around me. Who knew where I should go better than I? Proud of myself and looking forward to my destination, I continued on. If things felt this right, they certainly could not be wrong, or so I thought…
As time went on, my travels began to feel a bit too long, the pungent smell of honeysuckle which once had smelled so appealing, began to smell sickeningly sweet. As the sun began to sink behind its horizon, mosquitoes appeared buzzing annoyingly around my head and nipping at my feet, try as I might, I could not get them to leave me alone.
“Oh you dratted bugs – why must I have been blessed with such sweet blood!” I complained as I tried to swat them as I continued on my way. “I should be at my destination now.” Wearily I looked around me. The pack on my back felt heavy now and was beginning to chafe the area between my shoulder blades, taking it down; I took out my shoes and put them back on my bug bitten feet. I sat against a large boulder, raising my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arms around my legs.
“Regretting your choice of actions yet?” said a quiet voice.
“Oh no, not you again Mister Frog,” I groaned trying to adjust my eyes to the dusk locate the annoying little amphibian.
“I’ve been called quite a few things in my life, but frog is not one of them,” the voice chuckled.
If my sense of hearing was correct, it was coming from somewhere above me, finally I saw it and when I did, I wish I hadn’t. I backed away from the boulder as quickly as I could.
“Oh come on now,” it exclaimed watching me with little red eyes as it twitched its whiskers. “I’ve no intention of spraying you, I’d say you’ve already made quite a stink of things, wouldn’t you agree?” The skunk twitched her tail as if to toy with me, and laughed in amusement as I cringed and closed my eyes. “Tell me something,” she continued, “why do you have a rule book in your bag if you chose not to follow it? Do you find comfort in just the carrying of it?” She tilted her head to the left to look at me. I could see her red eyes glowing in the dusk of the evening. Once in my own travels I came across the belongings of a camper who had gone out upon a hike. They had left upon their sleeping bag the same book of rules you too carry. I was curious about it, so I meandered over to take a closer look. Opened the pages to a rule which said, in a section entitled Psalms Chapter 32 verse 8: “The Lord says, I will guide you along the best pathway of your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” I’m curious, or maybe just a bit nosey – but I have to ask, have you listen to His advice? Have you allowed Him to guide you or have you chosen to guide yourself?” The skunk rested her chin upon her paws and waited for my response.
“What I do, how I do, why I do, is no one else’s concern, only mine. It is why it is referred to as a “personal” relationship. That sign was clearly there in error. Someone should have taken it down a long time ago. I only wish I had done it before I travelled forward.”
“Interesting…” commented the skunk. “This is only my two cents worth and you can take it for what you will; but it seems to me that a relationship consists of more than just one. Yet I have not heard you communicate to this Lord of yours in any way. In fact, I have only heard you talk to yourself about how pleased you are with you, with the decisions you have made… Look around yourself. Have you gotten to where you wanted to go? Have you eaten? Are you cold? To me you look disheveled, lost and irritated far different from the girl I saw set out this morning. Whose rulebook are you following if not the one in your sack?”
Her words stirred up within me a great irritation and without thinking, I took off my right shoe and flung it at her, hitting her right upon her left hind quarters, which caused her to release the most pungent and smelly sprays which caused my eyes to sting and I began to choke at the stench.
“That was simply cruel, “she said turning around with a limp. “More than cruel, it was mean. It was cruel and mean.” She looked over her shoulder at me with a hurt expression on her black and white striped face as she limped off into the dark. “It seems to me, I once saw something else in that rule book you never read, about a person reaping what they sow… You’ll have to tell me how all this worked out for you if ever we meet again.” And she disappeared into the dark.
I was alone, alone with only one shoe. Night had fallen and now I simply wanted to be done with this part of my journey. I could barely see two feet in front of me and I reeked of skunk. This was not going according to my plan. This was not the way things were supposed to be, and there was no one here for me to talk to, what should I do? Not knowing, I decided I had no choice but to settle in for the night. Tomorrow I would find a place to bathe and continue on my journey, which surely must be soon coming to an end.
“Don’t listen to any of them, ” the pathway beseeched me. “We were meant to journey together. Keep going. I will never leave you, we belong together. You are my one true love, beloved traveler let me take you down a way you’ve never been. Look at my picturesque background, like what you see and tell me you do. The beauty of may way is solely for you.” I snuggled closer to the ground. I loved this pathway like no other I had travelled, I was going to stay on it forever. I was committed to its way.
Even as I thought that, a feeling of uneasiness crept over me and for the first time, I began to feel a niggling of doubt, doubt that what the pathway was saying was true. What if they were right? What if I was being deceived? What if the pathway was lying to me and taking me down a way I didn’t know? I tried to shake the thought off. I loved this pathway and had forsaken all other ways to follow its trail. Taking my remaining shoe off and putting my backpack against the ground I lay my head down upon it, like a pillow, the words of the ladybug, frog and the skunk replaying through my head.
“It will deceive you, lie to you, make you promises it will never keep, use you and lead you down a way you never should go it knows nothing but deception and is full of self with no consideration to the feelings and heart of the traveler who travels its length. It will take and take and take from you, suck your feelings dry until you have nothing left to give.”
“Does not your rule book say pride before a fall? Perhaps you should have more of an open mind, there may be more than what you see…”
“Why do you have it in your bag if you choose not to follow it?”
Was not life filled with making decisions? The way seemed straight and I didn’t want to go another. It was my choice and with that last thought inside my head, I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
My own stench woke me up. I’ve got to get cleaned off! I thought as I scrambled up and ran my fingers through my hair. I’ve got to get clean! The smell of skunk had permeated my clothes and I knew that I would have to bathe clothes and all, so off I went searching for water.
“Come, I shall show you where you can go,” the pathway said lovingly to me. “I shall take you where you can get cleaned off and where we can be as one forever.”
I came to a high rise of land and as I reached the top, I could see a river below. In my relief and excitement I hiked up my backpack and started to run, barefoot down towards the water, which turned out to be a HUGE mistake. As I got closer to the shore, I encountered sand. Not just any sand, quicksand. Only I didn’t know it until I had reached it. I started to sink.
“Oh this is not good! Not good at all!” I cried trying to get out. But the more I struggled, the more I could feel my body sinking deeper. “Oh my! What should I do?! Oh no!” I said trying to remain calm. What a pickle I had gotten myself into. “Pathway, where have you taken me?” I cried out.
“This is not my fault but yours.” The pathway said sternly in a disciplinary tone of voice. “People blame me ALL the time for things that are not my fault. It is YOURS. You had no intention of ever staying on my pathway, did you? Did you wonder about paths that you had not ventured last night as you slept? Did you listen to the creatures and their accusations around you?”
The more it accused and spoke, the deeper I began to sink. “What are you saying?” I asked astonished, trying not to fight against the pull. “Happily I would have journeyed down your pathway all the remaining days of my life, for I have loved every moment of this journey.” At that same moment I noticed a troll walking over the side of a hill.
“Help! Help! Help!” I yelled trying to yell without thrashing around. The backpack which I had had no my back felt like a millstone around my neck. Oh that I had removed it from my body prior to running towards the water!
The troll stood far from the sand I had so stupidly and willingly walked into and looked at me and laughed.
“What have you here my darling pathway?” The toothless troll questioned. She was about 300 pounds, stringy greasy hair, a polyester dress hung loosely around her pudgy form. Then as she leaned closer, she noticed me and her expression changed to one of anger.
“Who is this that you have allowed to venture upon our land?” She bellowed to the pathway. (If I had had both feet planted firmly on the ground I would have felt the pathway quiver in fear.)
The pathway was afraid of this troll? What power did she exhort over it?
“No one dear, just a wayward traveler.” The pathway responded, voice shaking.
Oh so now instead of “beloved” I was a “wayward traveler?” The revelation shocked me as I fought to keep my head above the mire. For the second time I thought about all the warning signs that had come my way. Signs I had chosen to ignore.
“I’d like to keep her if I may.” The pathway stated to the troll.
“Cover up her head and kill her.” The troll said, waiting for the quicksand to cover my head.
“Ahhhh but then she would be one with my land and with me forever,” the pathway said quickly. ” You wouldn’t want that now, would you my trollness?” He said it seductively.
The troll tapped a big fat stubby finger to her chin. “That simply won’t do at all… You cannot keep her – expel her from the mire right now and then follow your own path home for we shall discuss this further!” She stamped a fat little trolly leg, turned around and marched back the way she had come.
The pathway obeyed her and I felt a suction that carried me down at first, covered my head in its slimy, muddy waters and then I was lifted and propelled high into the air, falling on my backside so hard that my rule book, surprisingly undamaged by the mire fell out on the ground beside me. I landed hard, covered in filth, smelling like skunk and nasty pond water.
My heart was shattered into a million little pieces and at this point, I could not focus upon anything but the pain.
“I’m sorry I deceived you,” The pathway said after a moment. “I wasted so much of your time. I am unworthy of your loyalty and your love.”
My heart hurt, it was hard to hear what the pathway was saying because the loudness of my pain reduced its words to a mere whisper.
“I should never have come this way. I should have obeyed the sign and ventured the way it indicated. Had I known I would be in so much anguish I would never have turned down your way.” My eyes filled with tears, as my backside smarted, my heart hurt and I felt very alone and lost. I no longer trusted my own discernment. “You have hurt me more than I have ever experienced in my life. But the truth is, you poor pathway are the one to be pitied, for the truth is, you go in only one direction. I saw you and loved your way and would gladly have walked upon your path until the end of time. I saw the beauty in you for who you were, while everyone else just saw a “way.” You are the one who will have to hope that people will ignore the sign and venture upon your pathway and discover the beauty I saw in you. It may take me some time, but I will recover and I will go on. You will remain, stagnant and stuck and look what you have to contend with? All the days of your life. I am shattered into a million little pieces, but my God will put me back together and I will rise more beautiful, more knowledgeable and wiser than I was before because I take responsibility for my actions.” I picked up my rulebook, my back pack, wiped the slime as well as I could off my body. “I renounce you and this pathway I have innocently, willingly, wrongly followed in a love which could never be returned. Go away from me, for you paid my love back with deception – back to your old life, your old ways and your old habits. I shall not journey with you anymore.” I turned my back on the pathway I had loved to detour a different route. Broken, but not defeated. Heavy hearted, yet at peace because I was finally going the right way.
“Lord, you say things for a reason. Forgive us when we do not heed Your voice, but choose to listen to ourselves. The louder our own voices get, the softer becomes Yours because You are a Father who gives us free will. We can be wayward children, yet still You love us. Still you patiently await our return to Your way. I ask that You meet me halfway, for my heart is shattered and I am having a hard time thinking straight and I doubt myself. Forgive me my sins, wash me with the blood of Jesus. I repent. I renounce anything that might hinder me from hearing Your voice and following Your direction for my life. Cleanse me from the filthiness I have gained upon my journey. My hurt is my own, I own it, I acknowledge it. I ask that you would heal my heart and bind it back together. Forgive me for not guarding it better, for it is the well spring of life. I ask you this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ my Savior. Who died on the cross for forgiveness of my sins, rose again and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Amen.”
As I stood in the middle of I-don’t-know-where, the sun came through the trees and landed upon my form. It’s light stretched out to touch my sodden, dirty clothes and made them white as snow. My stench was gone. The grime was gone. I was clean.
I could no longer hear the pathway – it was in the past. It’s voice was gone. But I was not alone. A new clearer voice filled my head.
“My precious daughter, how I rejoice upon your return, you see? I am meeting you halfway. Though your sins were scarlet, I have made them white as snow. Here I AM, I AM the one who heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. Surely I will bind up yours and heal you, for I love you. You are mine. I have plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Lift up your head – child YOU are MINE. Come, lets go forward in my love, my grace and my mercy – I have work for you to do.”
And so another chapter in my life closes, do I still hurt? Yes. I imagine it will take some time for that pain to wane. For I loved that pathway and I pray that at sometime, it will become a pathway of light instead of one that hurts and crushes and destroys what was meant for only love.
At the beginning of the pathway stood a wanderer – observing the sign and scratching her head…