Every autumn when we were young, when the leaves were vibrantly colored and the mountain air was crisp in my home state of West Virginia, Dad would set aside a Sunday afternoon for our annual long trek through the woods. I’m sure that Mary Beth, John, Jan, and Kathryn remember that special tradition as well. Dad would take us up in the woods behind our old house in the Elmore addition and off we would all go, following Dad as he led us on the road or the path through the trees. Dad worked six days a week, so I know it was a sacrifice of his time to take us on this outing. He would point out the various trees by name, telling us interesting facts about each species. He would stop and tell us to be very quiet as we listened to the forest sounds around us. We would listen expectantly………waiting……….waiting……….until we heard the unique chirping of a squirrel, or the rustling leaves caused by a hopping rabbit, or the unmistakable shrill of a Blue Jay or a hawk. Dad wanted us to not only have fun on this walk, but to see and to learn from all that was around us.
Eventually we would end the day sitting on the ground of a sloping hillside, enjoying the wonderful sunshine and fresh air…………and time together as a family; although that is a treasure that is relished now, I’m sure, more than it was at that particular time. I don’t remember how long we were in the woods. Time was irrelevant as a child. It seemed like forever, but I’m sure it wasn’t all that long. I do know that if I had been in those woods alone, I would have been terrified. But with my dad leading the way, and with my siblings around me, I never had a doubt or fear. I was secure and carefree, loving the experience and trusting in the guidance of my dad.
I’m thinking of all this because I was reading Psalm 5 this morning. David is in a very bad predicament here, even dangerous. He talks about the importance of preparing his prayers and the importance of knowing the God to Whom he is praying………and then in verse 8 he begins to pray. “Lord (Yahweh), lead me in Your righteousness because of those lurking for me; make Your way straight before me.”
David is asking God to lead him in the right way – that’s the first request he makes. God, show me the way to go……..the right way. And why? Because all around there is danger. There are enemies who want to trip him up, even to kill him. But isn’t it interesting that David first asked to be led in the right way before he asked to be led in the safe way? And that David didn’t ask to be delivered OUT of the way of the hard stuff, but to be led IN the right way IN the midst of the hard stuff. “Make Your way straight before me” doesn’t sound like David was asking for a detour around the situation, but a straight way through it.
We’re all on a path, and many times it isn’t too rosy. When it leads through the dark woods of suffering and anguish, we can easily lose sight of our Guide. Sometimes we need to just stop and listen…………….listening for what it is God wants to say to us and to show us. There may be times that we don’t hear anything at all, but we can pray. Like Dale Ralph Davis says, “Sometimes we may not be fully aware of all the details – not know all the particular dangers or various pitfalls, nor even the precautions required. Sometimes it looks like there are no roads in what’s ahead of us. But we can pray verse 8.”
Lord, lead me in the right way………because of all the junk that is pulling me down. Make your way straight……….through all the questions and the hurt and the loneliness and the darkness. Step by step, just lead me on the straight path in front of me step by step. There are times I wish I had all the answers, either for myself or for others, but I don’t. Yet I do know that I need to take one step…….then another step……….then one more………and all the time, ask God to lead each of my steps in the right way. I wish life was full of fun, but sadly that isn’t the case. Yet in the hard times, there are things to learn and growing to be done.
My Guide is totally trustworthy, even when He doesn’t explain why He’s leading me down this particular path. I know that He loves me and that He’ll take care of me………even though at times I have fear of all the unknown that is around me. Other times I’m even angry because the path is too difficult and I’m tired. But still I can pray: “God, lead me in the right way because there are so many enemies lurking on the other ways. Make Your way straight before me.”
Someday I’ll sit down and rest, looking back on the path through the woods and thinking of all the lessons learned. And realizing that God did indeed lead me in the right way and the straight way.
Just like my dad.