What is the Pioneer Path?
This is what the Lord says - your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17
I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of the American pioneers of the 1800s. Among the first to head west, they left for a new home and new life sight unseen, and chose to trade what they’d always known for an unknown path and future.
When I was younger, I imagined American pioneers living an idyllic life kind of like the one portrayed in the television show, Little House on the Prairie. Once the hardships of the trip west were in the past, a wonderful new life awaited. I imagined myself as a pioneer like the Ingalls family. To experience adventure in a place like Walnut Grove sounded appealing. The town was charming, and the community helped provide for one another, even Mrs. Olsen after some fussing pitched in. Problems at the beginning of the show were resolved by the end among happy tears, smiles, and laughter.
As I look ahead to a milestone birthday this year (rhymes with nifty), I understand now that pioneering couldn’t have been as easy as I thought years ago. Pioneers had to fully rely on the expertise of their leaders who knew the path and difficulties ahead. Even with experienced guides, the trip west offered a lot of circumstances outside their control–dangerous storms, treacherous terrain, and devastating illness. Some, overwhelmed by the venture, either decided to stop and settle along the way or to return to where they started. For those who completed the trip, there were just as many unknowns ahead–building structures to shelter people and animals, relying on the land to provide what they needed, living life away from family back east and often far away from their closest neighbors.
A couple of years ago, the idea that all of us are like pioneers began to take shape in my mind. No matter the stage or situation in life, we all face new journeys. We may feel prepared and knowledgeable, but who among us can really see what lies ahead? We believe we possess the understanding and ability to create plans for our best, relying on ourselves and our knowledge to determine our steps. We decide to lead the way through all of life’s uncertainties whether we’re walking along trails of rejoicing or sorrow, peace or difficulty.
When Jason and I began talking more seriously about me resigning my position at church to focus on writing full-time, I was both excited and terrified at the idea. It would mean leaving what was known to me–my closest friends, my teammates, the routine I’d counted on for years–and learning on another level what it is to trust the Lord with my new unknowns. As the fall unfolded, the Lord confirmed it was time for me to begin a journey on a new path, and I placed my foot on the first step even though I couldn’t see the next.
Where I thought I’d be by now is nowhere close to where I am. My readiness to do is strong; it’s always been my place of self-directed security. But the Lord is teaching me to be, a very uncomfortable place for me. I’m being stretched to live differently and to leave behind the need to seek identity in what I accomplish instead of who I am. He’s reminding me often (when I’m listening), to yield to him in spite of my doubts, to lay down my own desires, and to follow him closely as he leads. This journey is hard. There have been just as many times I’ve insisted that I’m the expert guide as I’ve had walking in step with him. I’m asking his forgiveness every time I see my stubbornness rise up.
This path’s circumstances are different, but I’ve been in similar spots before–through career changes, marriage, mental health struggles, parenting, and family crisis. Every time, he’s been good to me. It hasn’t always been easy along the way, but looking back, I see his hand in my life. Each journey requires my choice. Will I follow the Lord’s best for me or will I desperately hold to my own plans? Will I experience the beauty of abiding in him or will I find my own places of false security?
Wherever your own path is taking you right now, know that God is faithful to his promises. He is always with you even when it seems like he isn’t. He picks you up when you stumble; he carries you when you can’t take another step; he provides everything you need when you allow yourself to be led. God understands you completely, loves you lavishly, and forgives you perfectly.