Sweat is drenching my t-shirt. My face is flushed and I need a drink. I keep running, switching trails every few minutes. I choose the ones that look like they lead to where I’m trying to go. Every new trail starts out in the right direction then subtly veers away from my end point. Switch after switch, I can’t ignore that gut feeling - I’m lost. Disoriented, I keep running. Faster. Driven by the fading light and the embarrassment of showing up this late, I pick up my pace. I started this run with loads of energy, relishing the new trails and recklessly tackling each slope, fallen log and mud patch. It’s such a release to run. Usually when I run I put my mind on auto-pilot and let it mechanically sort out the day’s events without the constant interruption of new thoughts. That feeling of release is gone now. I just want the familiar sight of my friends. I commit to my current trail. I hope that this one will eventually lead me out of the woods. My feet are falling in rapid succession. My thoughts are too. I’m amused, frustrated, embarrassed, and irritated with this situation.
For a moment the other path I’m running comes to mind. I smile. Certainly that one is even more circuitous than this. The Path of Life. I started on it many years ago as a young girl figuring out how to live out my love for Jesus. I wanted to be a missionary – in Africa. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Gladys, Amy, Lilias, Francis and so many others. So I started to run. I ran in the direction that looked like it would take me where I felt called to go. But so often the path veered and I would get disoriented. But unlike this wooded trail, I learned that on the Path of Life, I don’t run alone. The presence of Jesus, of God the Holy Spirit is near. At forks of decision, when dusk became darkness, when I fell or stopped, he was there. He is here. If I listen… I hear his guidance. It is always true. I’ve been running that path for almost 20 years. I’m much closer to Africa. I leave for Nigeria in 5 short months. I don’t think the road will stop there. But I cannot be sure. I only see the next step.
My mind jumps back to my tiring legs, unaccustomed to the prolonged fast pace. I look up. The trees thin out and I can see that this trail leads down the hill to my waiting friends. I am relieved. Then for a split second, both trails converge and I simply run. I run down the hill towards my friends and I take another step down the path of life. One trail is ending. The other stretches on, fading just out of sight.
“You will show me the path of life…” Psalm 16:11