I went to visit my parents last Christmas, and I went out on my own, on a walk through a local forest that I spent a lot of time in as a child. There had been a lot that I felt that I needed to process from the last year, and I often think best when I’m out on my own on a walk; so I hopped in my car and drove around the corner to the forest, in my wellies and an old hoodie. I asked God to speak to me about the things that He’d put on my heart, and just began walking, deciding to see what happened.
The first thought that popped into my head was how different that day was from the day that I had walked that path before. The path was familiar, but I wasn’t running along it as a child or a moody teenager: I was tracing my own footsteps as a semi-functional, mature adult.
The path was muddy the whole way, but I got to a point where the path was completely swamped, with only a tiny amount of dry ground around the edge of it. I could have risked trying to get across it and keep going, but as I stopped for a moment, I decided that it wasn’t necessary, and turned back, still chatting away to God.
It struck me how much of a growth this was; I didn’t try to carry on, just to be able to say that I’d walked a long way – that wasn’t the important thing. Instead, I turned back, still doing the thing that I had set out to do. It struck me how, sometimes, it’s tempting to try and go the “extra mile”; not in a good sense, but with the things that we are doing for God, with the intention that people can see how much we’ve done. We get praised when it seems like we’re doing a lot for God; we’re recognised as good. But this isn’t necessarily for the right reasons – it’s to try and gain people’s approval and affection.
Let me tell you that it is totally acceptable to not be a “cover-girl/cover-boy” Christian – the people that we can often tend to compare ourselves to. God is not impressed by how good I look; He’s concerned about whether the things that we do are for Him. Sometimes, the people who look the best put the most effort into it, striving and trying to look good; and frankly, it’s not worth the effort. Integrity here is to follow God with all of our heart, and to not concern ourselves with the things that people say about us.
I turned back on my walk, and after a while hit a side path, which I didn’t recognise, but looked a lot dryer than the main path ahead, which was getting muddy again. Not entirely sure why I was doing it, I found myself turning off onto the road less beaten – obviously off the main path.
Catching myself again, I realised how this is often what walking with God looks like; while taking the road less beaten, for me, used to be all about independence, it was now all about dependence on my Father, rather than following the crowd. As we’re walking through life, it would often be easier for us to stay on the main path; but, when we follow His calling out, we will know that we’re on the right path. It won’t always be easy; we won’t always feel instantly accepted, and it’s scary sometimes, but ultimately, we’re always better off in His will.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)