13 mile journey. A couple days ago, I was set loose in the wilderness, leading a couple cousins into the beautiful, unforgiving wilderness of Yellowstone’s Black Canyon. Within a few miles, I’d begun to lead us down the wrong trail. Though running parallel to the real trail, ultimately a good sized creek stood between us and the right path.

We had to ford the river. Though called a creek, when I’d confirmed the voice in my head that had grown to a dull roar, it was too late to do much else but cross it. Hiking all the way back would have taken up an extra 4 miles, something I didn’t feel highly possible given the magnitude of a 13 mile hike, let alone a 17 mile one.

No shortcut. Once we’d crossed the creek (no small feat in and of itself), it was time to find the correct trail. However, it wasn’t as close to the water as I’d hoped. After being taken to the ground by a deceptively unsteady rock, the realization set in that recourse would be no easy undertaking on its own.

Blazing a trail. I’d known where I needed to be since the moment we took the wrong turn, but at this point I realized I’d exhausted all options for a quick fix to my navigational error. It was time to buck up, ask forgiveness and stop relying on my lackadaisical desire for the easy. We began across the untraveled territory to the real trail on the horizon. My pride, shattered, but my gratefulness for my cousins’ grace and a direct path (albeit long) to the trail.

Great day for a stroll in the woods. Though not as pristine so late in the season, we had a great day and we eventually made it to the end of the trail, and early. Sure, we tacked on a little distance as well as a ford, but we all arrived sorer and wiser for the experience. I can’t help but draw some comparisons to my journey with God.

Never a shortcut. God gives those who choose to follow His Son the Spirit who whispers to our soul the wisdom of God. Oftentimes, we know the right path to take, but we choose otherwise. By the time we realize we should’ve listened, it’s nearly too late, but it’s still not. We ask, “If I cross this river, will you be on the other side?” and once we do so, we don’t find him. He’s not standing right there as we’d pictured and we panic. In our panic, we continue to ignore the Spirit until we exhaust all the simplest options. We settle and resign ourselves to stick it out and sooner or later, we find what we were searching for all along, along a beautiful, narrow path where we knew we belonged all along.

It was a trying day, but once we righted our course, it was enjoyable and absolutely breathtaking. We don’t want to listen to our gut, but this obstinance leads us into trouble. We then look for the quick fix, but with the spiritual, there is no shortcut. Once we exhaust all those options, we try the not-so-easy long way and we arrive back on the path eventually. This has been my journey with God, getting lured away by the side trails and fighting to get back to where I belong. Maybe this is your journey as well, maybe you’re on a side trail right now. It’s time to get back on track and return to the trail to which we belong. It’s long enough, we don’t need to lengthen this 13 mile journey.