My dad was renowned in our family for his short-cuts. When I was growing up, a big feature of our summer holiday was trying to climb as many mountains as possible in the space of two weeks. We always took a map…but we didn’t necessarily follow it if we thought there was a more direct route. So we waded through bracken, scrambled up scree-slopes and trailed through bogs. Coming home with boots (and sometimes clothes) caked in mud was the sign of a good day out.
I’ve just come back from a fortnight in Whitby. One of the places we visited was a pretty little village called Goathland, which nestles in a valley in the middle of the beautiful North York Moors. From there, you can walk alongside the stream to a waterfall known as the Mallyan Spout. It’s only a short distance, but quite spectacular.
There’s obviously more of my dad in me than I realised, because it was me who suggested that it would be more interesting if we joined the path a mile or so further upstream. I had been that way once before, with a party of schoolchildren, so I knew it was do-able.
Unfortunately, that was over 20 years ago. Either the path or my memory (or possibly both) had been eroded over time. What I had remembered as a gentle stroll down a clearly marked path was in fact a challenging combination of clambering over rocks and squelching through boggy patches. My dad would have been so proud!
Are you sure this is the right way?
Life doesn’t always work out exactly how we plan it – and when it feels like a constant struggle, it’s tempting to dwell on the bad stuff. We focus on the slippery rocks and the muddy swamps. Paul’s response to this type of attitude was to encourage the Philippian church to think about things that are “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy”. (Philippians 4: 8.) That’s quite a list!
Jesus never promised us that life would be easy, but he did promise that he would be with us. Sometimes we need to make the choice to pause and appreciate the good things that God has given us. After all, if I’d spent the entire trip worrying about whether my trousers were ever going to be fit to wear again, I would have missed out on some stunning scenery.