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The Long Road

Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain."- Isaiah 40:4

This past Halloween delivered something far sweeter than candy, as the Lord provided me a vivid and profound lesson. We decided to join some other friends/families for trick or treating in a neighborhood we had not been to before. We had a wonderful time connecting with our friends and watching the kids have such a good time. After about an hour of knocking on doors and loading up pillow cases with sweets, one of our boys needed to get home. So I volunteered to take him home, which meant about a seven minute walk back to the car. After dropping our son off, I returned to the neighborhood to meet up with the group. During my second seven minute walk, I was contemplating whether the walking would tire the kids out counteracting the candy or if the sugar would hype them up, counteracting the walking. Either way, I finally got back to the group. After another twenty minutes we decided that it was time to call it a night. It was at this moment the Lord drove home a truth that will stick with me for quite some time.

As we were saying goodbye one of our friends pointed to a little pathway between two houses that he believed would take us right back to the street where are cars were parked. As we took the small greenbelt, we were amazed to find that in a matter of a few hundred yards and thirty seconds of walking time we arrived to our Suburban! In fact, I had parked our vehicle right in front of the greenbelt without even noticing it. My seven minute walk (twice over) was made up of six minutes and thirty seconds of unnecessary steps, sweat, and panting breaths. What should have taken seconds took minutes. What should have required little effort expended considerable energy. What should have been clear and easy was veiled in darkness and unfamiliarity.

One of the things that we find in the Scriptures are the times God's people experience detours and delays due to their own decisions, disobedience, and dissenting voices. Whether their issues were rooted in fear, ungratefulness, lack of faith, or outright rebellion it led them on a winding path and a foreign place, rather than experiencing the fullness and goodness that God has promised to them. Rather than entering into the Promise Land, the children of Israel wander for forty years in the wilderness (this was due to their believing the false report of the spies). Rather than enjoying doing things God's way, Israel rebels against the Lord by worshipping idols. This leads them to losing their homeland and being sent into captivity (Babylon) for seventy years. Rather than obeying the Lord's command to remove the neighboring nations and foreign gods when they took possession of the land, Israel compromised by not dealing with the issue and not removing the high places of idol worship. This left them with a burden, weight, thorn in their side, and headache for many generations.

The question for us to answer today is are we choosing our own path over God's direction? By choosing to follow our own course we end up getting stuck, finding ourselves lost, and traversing on a difficult and unending path of discouragement and unfulfilled dreams. In Jeremiah 10:23 the prophet makes a powerful admission to the Lord, "I know that people's lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps." Here are some questions to ask ourselves and honestly answer, if we are serious about allowing God's best to make a smooth and straight path for us to follow:

* Are my prayers being hindered due to any unconfessed sin?

* Is God's promise for my life being delayed due to a lack of trust or steps I am to take?

* Are there areas in my life that are a greater struggle than they should be because I have failed to surrender them to God?

* Am I stuck in a mindset of negativity and bitterness rather than of hope and gratefulness?

I know that as I reflect on these questions, I find myself needing to take a daily inventory of my heart, my thoughts, my attitude, my motives, and my faith. The good news in all of this is that God indeed has a better way for us to walk; an open door for us to enter; and a wonderful promise for us to receive. He wants to lead us on His path which is marked by grace, peace, joy, and hope. Proverbs 4:18 says, "The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining even brighter till the full light of day." It is a far better way of doing life than taking matters into our own hands. Like my seven minute walk in an unknown neighborhood versus a direct path that takes 30 seconds to arrive at my destination, God puts before us a choice today, whether we take the long road (our own) or the perfect path (His). Take it from my Halloween day lesson: Don't get TRICKED into doing life your way, rather find the sweetest TREAT in following His path.

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