Clearing Paths for Personal Growth
Mar 19, 2017 03:15AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
The recent Nor’easter that blew through Boston timed itself so well with my husband’s business trip to the West Coast. To be honest, it often does. Thankfully, I have an almost-6-feet-tall son who can help me with snow clearing. My other kids are useful when it’s under a foot, but this time, I needed the height, strength, and weight of a sixteen-year-old to help me out.
I managed to get that snow blower going, although it’s small enough it required rolling up shaving off the top layer, backing up, and then getting the bottom layer. I could not push it completely forward with ease. I had waited too long to get out there, and there was a lot of heavy snow to move. The wheels were not going to stay on the pavement. They dug in only so far and started tilting uphill–yeah, when I was going downhill. I had a few choice words go through my head as I would steer that belligerent beast. When it ran out of gas halfway down my driveway in high winds, with gasoline blowing away as I was pouring it, thoughts of my husband and palm trees came across my mind.
“Hope you’re enjoying paradise, Buddy, ‘cause I’m gonna ache for days.”
By the time my son unearthed the minivan and cleared around it, I attempted to drive a path through the yard, both for the older kids to get to the bus stop without walking knee-deep in snow, and for the dogs to have a walkway. Yeah, I quickly ascertained that was not going to happen.
After checking the roof for icicles hanging in the wrong locations, knocking down the few that threatened to impale anyone who dared stand under my front door, and determining if the mail was deliverable where road plows deposited their accumulations at my mailbox, I took the shovel out back to see if I could scrape a four-foot by four-foot square by the back door for the dogs to use until my husband returned.
I felt sad they had to settle for a limited area until someone stronger than I am could come and create greater trails for them.
I didn’t like holding them back.
I wanted them to be free.
A while ago, a dear friend of mine was walking through incredible obstacles. I hated seeing her so tethered to the old life before being able to fully embrace the new one.
I wanted her to run again,
To not look over her shoulder,
To know the next step and be able to take it, confidently.
But it was not time yet.
Like my Shih Tzus, the next step was only the one she could see in front of her. While that was so frustrating, she chose to trust the One clearing it for her.
Who is clearing yours? Or mine?
That’s the biggest question when considering personal growth:
Who do we trust to pave our way?
- Our well-meaning parents, if they are still with us?
- A counselor?
Those may be good people to check in with, but are any of them infallible, without bias or conflict of interest—well-meaning though they may be?
Are we able to fully clear a path for someone in our own strength?
I couldn’t do it. Not with 18 inches of snow in my way—and on most days, not with the heavy junk of life in my way, either.
My friend may have only been able to take one step at a time, and that may have felt very restrictive, but it’s all about Who made her paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6, ESV
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
The challenge in only seeing a few steps in front of us is that it requires trust. It insists we yield and submit our wills to God. It demands we put our own intellect and reasoning down. And it expects full obedience: in all your ways acknowledge Him.
Not sometimes. All ways.
And after those expectations are fulfilled, the promise: and he will make straight your paths.
I need that every day of my life. How about you? I need His Holy Word to show me the way.
Psalm 119:105, ESV
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Lately, the whole counting-steps phenomenon has consumed so much of my social media feed. I am a member of a group that records how many steps each person accomplished per day. Since my steps more or less lead me to the mailbox and back, I am more of an observer who shares my step count only on the days I end up circling through a warehouse store or mall.
I started considering that each of my steps, especially in trials, is very deliberate, calculated, measured. I’m learning to ask God to order them for me.
I need His help showing me how to prioritize where He would like my feet to point when going forward.
You know what? It has completely shocked me where He has led me, but it has been full of peace whenever I stop to ask Him to help me put one foot, or one “plan,” in front of the other. Sometimes, like my friend, I am only given the go-ahead for a short distance at a time. I can’t see far down the line. As with my Shih Tzus, snow banks of circumstances are blocking my way.
I have to trust my Master to clear them when the time is right.
Like my dogs, I feel pent-up and unable to run free.
And like my dogs, I am being protected, readied, prepared, and guided. The snow banks are uncertain footing. Their paws will sink in. The hills are too high, the ground not readily under their feet.
When my path is only a footstep ahead of me, I find so much comfort in these verses about where my steps truly come from. They are important reminders that God orders our steps for a reason, often ones not in our view.
Proverbs 20:24, ESV
A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?
Psalm 37:23, ESV
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way;
Proverbs 16:9, ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
When the snow finally melts to a lower height or my husband blows a trail through it—whichever comes first—the dogs will be ready, as will the ground.
Our own personal growth often comes in those moments we sit looking at the big obstacle in our path, only taking a step when God says: “Go.” We think we are stuck and stagnant, not moving forward, but in reality, we take greater leaps once the path is cleared fully and completely.
The distance covered may be greater once the way is certain, but our character development and faith building take place when we have to ask Him where to put our foot down next.
The snow melts, the trials move out of the way, and we may get to run again for a little while. But stay the course. Consult the Path Clearer. He is faithful to establish your steps and delight you in His way.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.