Hey guys! Before I get into today’s post, I want to say thank you for your overwhelming response to “A Season With Deep Purpose.” That post came from the deep recesses of my heart, and how you responded and how God used it—WOW! Thank you for sharing it so liberally! It’s reached people well beyond my community of influence. And the comments I’ve received—I can’t even describe. I’m humbled by how God continues to use those words and my brokenness to bind the brokenness of others and reveal His Truth to their heart. Isn’t He amazing??
Okay, now back to regular programming.
I know it’s been a while since I added to this series. It’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve tried writing this post dozens of times over countless days, and it’s never worked. Nothing was coming together. Maybe, I needed to absorb this lesson a little longer. Study it a little further. And make it fully mine before I could share it…Maybe I hadn’t fully learned it yet…who knows.
Other posts in this series:
DANGER!!!! WARNING!!!! CAUTION!!!!!
Hiking switchbacks can be dangerous!
The same is true in following the path God gives us.
There are many potential hazards capable of slowing our progress, stopping us in our tracks, or preventing us from reaching our destination. Some of these dangers are unavoidable, but most can be averted if we choose to heed the warnings given to us.
I’m not talking about the tests God orchestrates or allows to refine us and strengthen our character and faith. Nor am I talking about the Enemy’s assaults to thwart God’s will and plans. Those are entirely different matters.
I’m talking about the choices we deliberately make to flirt with disaster.
The choices we make to veer off the path Jesus has laid out for us.
The choices we make to cut the switchbacks.
Friend, let’s face it, we’re often our biggest adversary in fulfilling God’s calling on our lives.
But we don’t have to be.
Before you go too far on any trail in Arizona, you’re guaranteed to see a sign warning you of rattlesnakes (and other dangers). Hikers are urged to stay on the trails AT ALL TIMES and are forbidden to cut the switchbacks. And every year this Minnesota Girl forgets about this danger and every year these signs remind her Arizona is where many of these “nope-ropes” call home.
Okay, give me a minute to be real, and a little girlie:
I HATE SNEKS!
And when I say I hate sneks, I mean I PASSIONATELY hate sneks!
You know when God put enmity between the snake and the woman? (Genesis 3:15) I got a double-dose! In fact, I have a rule in my house, if a pet has more than four legs and less than two, it’s not welcome. EVER! (Except for fish.)
So each time I see one of these signs, fear runs through me, compelling me to examine my sanity before taking another step. I break out in a cold-sweat and my feet become immobilized as visions of forked tongues slide through my mind and sounds of phantom rattles ring in my ears.
Then I remember most snakes are still hibernating in mid-March. Thank You, Jesus!
I confess, I get so preoccupied with rattlesnakes I forget there are other dangers to be aware of such as mountain lions, scorpions, drop-offs, loose rock, and noxious plants.
This is why there’s an established path to follow!
This is why the DNR gives us reminders all through our hike: DON’T CUT SWITCHBACKS!
After encountering several of these signs, I started to wonder why.
Why are there so many reminders posted all through these trails? Isn’t one or two enough?
Why shouldn’t we cut the switchbacks?
I mean, after all, the goal is to get to the top, right? So why not take the “shortest route” possible, avoiding the continuous back-and-forth all together?
Looking up, I can’t help but think, “It doesn’t look all that steep, and I could bypass all the monotony. The drudgery. Sure, there are loose rocks, cacti to avoid, and roots to step over, but I’m sure they’ll be easily maneuvered if I’m careful and pay attention to where I’m going. And it’s not like you have to remind me to keep an extra eye out for snakes. I’ll be fine.”
We have no guarantees for our safety once we choose to leave the trail.
This is why there are so many warnings, at regular intervals, along the path!
Don’t worry, I know the dangers are still there. Present. And very possible.
- Snakes can be sunning themselves on the path or stalking their prey in the nearby vegetation.
- Mountain Lions can be perched on tree branches or cliffs or lay unseen in the shrubbery.
- Loose rocks dot the path, no longer embedded in the soil, and they can cause a sprain, strain, or break.
- Noxious plants may have grown close enough to the trail to bush up against—burning your skin, blinding your eyes, or embedding their spines deeply into your flesh with their barbed ends.
- Heavy rains could have washed out part of the path, damming up another.
The list can go on and on.
But we need to remember the DNR created the trails they did to provide the safest route possible while protecting the ecosystem and preserving the path for others.
When they mapped out the trails, they took many things into account, including, the terrain, soil stability, rattlesnake dens, scorpion nests, and mountain lion lairs.
I don’t know about you, but this is significant to me!
I like to know my best interests were considered when these trails were laid–even if part of their safety precautions include switchbacks. You know, those not-so-fun serpentine trails that help us navigate steep hill or mountain sides in pursuit of the top. I’m comforted knowing I can trust those who created these paths to not only help me avoid dangerous animals and noxious plants but also to guide me around areas of notorious loose rock and blind drop-offs.
Because then I can
- Fully enjoy the landscape before me.
- Soak in everything the trail has to offer.
- Revel in the outrageous beauty of God’s vast and marvelous creation.
- Engage with my Creator on a more intimate level without the constant distraction of the potential dangers around me or my insidious fears.
But if I veer off the trail, if I cut the switchbacks, I would be sacrificing those experiences, blessings, and joys on the altar of impatience and pride.
It’s the same with the path God laid out for us!
Dear One in Christ,
- Did you know God planned out your path long before you were born and laid it out according to His purpose AND in your best interests? (Ephesians 2:10)
- Did you know His plan for you is for your GOOD, not disaster? (Jeremiah 29:11a)
- Did you know His plan for you is to give you real hope as you live here on this planet AND look forward to a future with Him in Heaven? (Jeremiah 29:11b)
HE DID and IT DOES!
And it’s up to you to choose to follow His path—including the switchbacks.
Friend, switchbacks are often part of God’s plan.
That monotonous back-and-forth on a winding trail—it has a purpose. A deep purpose.
He uses it to teach us lessons, refine our character, strengthen our faith, and draw us closer to Him. He uses it to hone our skills and learn new ones for the next leg of the journey.
AND, yes, He uses it to take you around known dangers, temptations, and pitfalls that could derail your efforts.
- So you can take in the magnificent beauty surrounding you and delight in the good
- So you can experience all the joy your journey has to offer
- So you can accomplish what you came to do without having to turn back
- So you won’t stumble unnecessarily or lose our footing altogether
- So you won’t have to endure needless injury
- So you won’t waste your time and energy on non-essential efforts or become entangled in irrelevant pursuits
- So your strength and Steadfast Endurance won’t be diminished
- So you won’t get lost
- So you won’t be robbed of the delight and lessons your calling has to offer
So you won’t miss out on intimate encounters with your Creator
I get it. I do. As we travel our path and another round of switchbacks comes into view, the temptation to cut them is so real. We want to get where we’re going—like yesterday. We’ve already had several delays and setbacks. We don’t want to wait anymore! We’re impatient. I’m impatient. I don’t want to waste time going back and forth, seemingly covering the same territory over and over again. Excuses assail our mind, even though we know the trail is clearly marked, and we can see warning signs posted everywhere. We know the dangers—but we can see our destination! It’s right there! We’re so close…
This is when I have to force myself to change my perspective and look behind me.
Go ahead, take a peek over your shoulder, I’ll wait.
Do you see them?
Others are coming behind us!
Others generations. Even members of our own generation.
Our choices not only affect us, but they also impact them.
Often with more force that what we had to endure.
Much like scrambling between switchbacks can create a rock slide—blocking the path below and inflicting injury on the innocent people traveling behind us—our arrogance, selfishness, pride, and sinful choices do the same thing. We may have lost out footing in our sin, suffered a setback, or even endured a minor injury.
But to those below, those falling stones could
- Be a knock-out punch
- Block their path, forcing them to take routes that hold unknown dangers
- Flush out or awaken rattlesnakes and mountain lions
I want to encourage you not to disparage the switchbacks in your journey. They are there for a deep purpose. A reason. Lean into what they have to teach you. How they can refine you. They are there to help keep you and those behind you safe.
And remember: Switchbacks are funny things
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