It was truly beautiful, a wonderful forest in the midst of the city. But as I walked my uneasiness grew. I had no idea where I was and I had not told anyone where I was going…
A number of years ago, I moved to the Portland area and immediately set out to learn my way around my new home. Sunday afternoons were devoted to taking my map and finding someplace new to explore. One week, I heard that the arboretum was sponsoring a “fall colors” walk in Forest Park so that became my destination that Sunday afternoon.
I found the park and I found the clearly marked starting point. I began walking, enjoying the cool fall day and the beauty of God’s creation. There were many side trails but I followed the signs that the arboretum had put in place.
However, about 30 minutes into my walk, I came to a split in the trail that did not have a sign. I wasn’t sure whether it was just missing or if I had taken a wrong turn. Either way, I was now on my own, so I picked a direction and kept walking. I thought that I couldn’t get too lost since this was “just” a city park. What I did not take into account was that this park covers over 5,100 acres and has close to 70 miles of trails.
At each decision point I tried to take the trail that seemed most traveled, but often it was difficult to tell. At one point, the trail came out to a vista overlooking the Chinese gardens far below. At another point, one of the side paths led out to a residential area that bordered the park.
As I went along, I occasionally met someone going the opposite direction, but I was feeling pretty dumb and didn’t want to admit I was lost. Eventually I knew I was going to have to ask for help. So when I met a woman going the other direction, I stopped and asked how to get back to the place I had started. It turned out that I had been traveling in a giant loop for the past hour and a half and that I was only about 20 minutes from my starting point.
When I think back on that day, I realize that the lessons learned are good ones to apply to my “walk” through life.
1. Take a map! I found out later that I could have stopped at the arboretum office and picked up a map. In my life, the map is Scripture. It is there that I go every day for my sense of direction. I may encounter unexpected twists and turns along the way, but if God’s word is fresh in my heart and mind, then I know where I am headed.
2. Watch for the signs. Sometimes I get so intent on my plans and what I want to do, that I forget to pay attention to what God wants me to do. I fail to see the people and circumstances that He puts in my path.
3. Walk with friends. God did not intend that I should walk alone. We all need people in our lives to encourage us, share our joys and sorrows, and sometimes steer us back onto the right path.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I can get myself into real trouble when I am too proud to confess that I am struggling.
5. Enjoy the walk. In the midst of Forest Park, I enjoyed the beauty, even though I didn’t know where I was. It is the same with life. In the midst of the struggle, look for the blessings, and thank God for them.