Read first: Deuteronomyy 31:8
I grew up on a 10-acre farm in Michigan. There was a large forest behind our house, and to get to it, you had to cross the pasture, climb under the electric fence, and trek through a huge corn field. But taking that first step into the Michigan forest was always worth it. The birds were always singing, and there was a creek that ran through the forest, and if you were close enough, you could hear the soft babbling of water over rocks. It was my happy place.
But if you spent enough time in those trees, they would soon start to blend together, and as a kid, I couldn’t tell north from south. Sometimes I would be overcome by sheer terror and begin to imagine the worst scenarios, and I could picture myself curled up on the forest floor, crying myself to sleep in the dead of night, hopelessly lost. Fortunately, there were hunters and farmers who regularly walked these woods as well, and like all wise men do, they made paths through the forest to make getting around easier. And no matter how lost I felt I was, I always knew that if I could just find a path, I could follow it out of the forest and back home.
As an adult, when I look back at those memories, I can see a deeper truth that my adolescent brain could not have understood. Even though I was close to home, I may have wandered for hours in the dense forest, never finding my way out before dark had it not been for the hunters and the farmers that cleared out the thick undergrowth and made those trails. As long as I stayed on the path, I’d find my way out of the forest, and be on my way home.
Jesus told His disciples in John chapter 14 that even though He had to leave them behind, He was going before them to prepare a place for them (John 14:2). He promised that He and the Father would send the Holy Spirit to help and lead and comfort us (John 14:26). This means that God has gone before us, but that God is also with us. There is a special kind of comfort to know that no matter where we are in life– no matter what pain or suffering we are experiencing– God has passed this way before, blazing a trail for us. We need only to follow.
The author of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 12 that we are not alone on our journey– so many others have passed this way before! And now they stand as witnesses, cheering us on; encouraging us to lay aside anything that would weigh us down as we press on toward home– with our gaze fixed on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
God has promised never to leave you. Never to forsake you. Just as He guided and guarded the children of Israel with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, He goes before you. He dwells inside you. And He follows after you. Saint Patrick wrote a simple but beautiful reminder of the “everywhereness” of the presence of Jesus:
“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”
We’re not blazing new trails. Jesus has made a way, and He calls you and me to follow Him. And with our eyes fixed on Jesus, there’s nothing that can keep us from getting home.