The Right Path
During my recent stay at the Ghost Ranch retreat center in northern New Mexico, I decided to be intrepid and hike some of the many trails near the ranch.
I found the trailhead with no problem and set off with confidence. The only problem was that due to recent rainfall, there were a number of arroyos that had been deepened, and before long, I soon had no clue which was the trail, and which was an arroyo that basically led to nowhere.
After going the wrong way a few times, and wasting about half an hour or more trudging along with no discernible path, I climbed up to a vantage point where I could see more clearly. I paused, drank some water, and actually said a prayer for peace and discernment. It was then that I noticed something I hadn’t before.
The trail was marked with piles of stones that had been set up by travelers before me. They weren’t easy to spot, especially when you’re charging off, trying to find your way, but they were there and had been for some time.
From that point on, I made sure to keep my eye out for the stones, and I was able to follow the path to the summit of a broad mesa, and from there to journey on the rest of the trail without worry.
I got to thinking about my experience on the trail in relation to my own spiritual life, and my desire to always find the right path forward, which is sometimes met with dismay when I discover I’ve reached a dead end.
It happens a lot if I’m being honest. I suppose it’s an experience that most of us share.
What I was reminded of on that day was that our spiritual paths can often be obscured from us by our own inability to see, and also by outside factors, perhaps even the storms of life. It can be difficult when it feels as though we don’t know where we’re going, but in those moments we sometimes just need to find a new perspective.
The whole notion of sitting, waiting, watching and praying while we try to find our way is quite simply the very act of discovering a new vantage point where the path can be revealed.
And the wonderful thing about it is that there have been others who have journeyed that same path, even though in our moment we can’t see their footprints in the dirt.
Those wise and kind travelers that have gone before us will often leave us guides, what the Scriptures call “Ebenezer’s” or “stones of hope/help.” And if we are willing to see them, and be guided by them, they will lead us forward.
At the end of my reflection, I found myself so grateful for those who have traveled the spiritual path that I am seeking to follow. Without them, I would have surely wandered more than I liked.
But I also was mindful of the fact that I believe I would have eventually found a way, even in my lostness. I knew the direction I needed to go, and that was enough at the moment, despite my struggles to get there. After all, someone had to have been the first to forge the path I followed, when there was none.
May this bring you peace in your own life if you are seeking spiritual direction, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.