A few years ago, I was walking through a marshland. It was one of those boarded walkways, raised up a few inches above the mud so you don’t have to worry about the muck ripping the shoes off your feet. The marsh was filled with tall grass, 6 to 7 feet in height, and cattails, and so the effect of walking along the boardwalk was like walking down a hallway, with a very restricted view to either side. I could hear the birds and frogs singing, but unless they joined me on the path I couldn’t see them.
Ahead of me the path took a turn, a bend to the right, and because of the tall plants, what would emerge ahead of me was a mystery. Perhaps around the corner was a pond, or a coyote, or remote beaver dam. It could be a place of peace and serenity where I could sit and relax, it could be something frightening where I would need to turn and run, or it could be more of the same tall grass with little to see. I had no way of knowing. Yet not knowing made me want to go on, to seek that which might be a new adventure, to explore and discover. I began to enjoy the twists and turns on the walk, whether they revealed anything new or not.
At one point I looked back to see where I had been, and I realized that not only could I not see where I was going, but I could no longer see the path that I had just walked. It was just as obscured as the path ahead – except for my memories. There were the places the dragonfly nearly crashed into me, where the flowering bush bloomed, and where some of the wooden boards were broken and needed to be repaired. I could remember them, but I could no longer see them.
As I reflected upon this, I thought about how often life is also like this. We look ahead of us, we can predict a slight change of course, but we really don’t know what lies around the corner. It could be more of the same with tomorrow almost a mirror image of today, it could be a special time of joy and celebration, or it could be that which brings tears and sadness. Not knowing is part of the adventure of life.
Looking back, we depend upon our memories for where we have been. The times when we clashed with a loved one, when life truly blossomed, where the way seemed broken and in need of heavy repair. Some of these memories bring us sadness, some we treasure.
What is vital for us is to be aware that God was with us along the path. Every step we have taken in the past and every step that we will take in the future is walked with God at our side. As Psalm 23 says,
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
he leads me to restful waters;
he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
for the sake of his good name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no danger because you are with me.
Never forget that, my friends!