While Jason and I explored Acadia National Park last summer, we decided to spend some time away from the crowds and headed to Schoodic Peninsula, the quiet side of the park. There is a lovely, meandering drive around the peninsula and a beautiful rocky coast. Driving in, there were very few cars and only a handful of people here and there, so we stopped to explore. It was a marvelous place to enjoy the beauty around us with only the sound of the waves and the wind.
Stopping at a little turnoff, we ventured out to the coast. We looked along the rocky coastline and wondered how far we could go, so we set out on an adventure. The first few small cliffs of granite were fairly easy to climb. As we continued on, the rock became a little more precarious, but a sense of adventure won out and we kept going.
Soon the smaller rocks gave way to more difficult climbs until we finally reached a spot with sheer granite on either side of the inlets of water, making it impossible for us amateurs to continue.
By this time, we were pretty tired from climbing. Looking back the way we came, we could no longer see where we started. The idea of backtracking while worn out was daunting, but we knew the way. However, the road was somewhere close through the forest. We had a decision to make. Hoping it was the right call, we decided to find a path up to the road where we could walk back on even ground.
And then things went awry. We started through the trees only to find there was no path. The undergrowth was thick, uneven and picky. Tree branches crisscrossed the way between us and any hint of a potential trail. But we trudged along, thinking the road was just ahead. Getting smacked in the face and scratched by the branches and bushes we continued forging our own way. We walked and walked and walked with no road in sight - not even the sound of cars. I don’t know about Jason, but there were moments I was afraid we’d wander around so much we’d get increasingly lost. The road we were sure was close by was indeed much farther than we thought.
We did make it to the road…finally. Later that evening, my sunburned face, itchy arms and legs, and scratches were a painful reminder that we should have retraced our steps on the known path.
How often do we think we have a better, easier way of doing things? We search for what we believe is the quickest and smoothest path. And yet, battered and bruised, the realization hits - Why did I believe my way was best?
Going my own way gives me a sense of control and security. I make the decisions; I determine my steps. But in reality, I trust myself more than I trust the God of the universe. I’m sure His way will be more difficult than mine, so I stray off the trail the Lord has laid out for me. It’s easy for our hearts to wander further and further away from Him until one day, covered in the evidence of our lack of wisdom, we stop and ask ourselves, “How did I get here?”
In those moments, the Lord asks us to wait for Him to show us the way back to the path. David writes about this in Psalm 41:1-2, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” He doesn’t chastise us for forging our own paths and getting lost; instead, he forgives us for trusting in ourselves and rescues us from the predicaments we get ourselves into. Placing our feet on solid ground, he encourages us to stay on his path. What a merciful God we serve!