Leaving a Trail

Do not follow where the path may lead. Follow God, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.

I came across this quote many years ago. I have no idea who is responsible for the pithy manner in which this wisdom has been expressed, but it struck me as particularly relevant as we begin the New Year.

For centuries the church has been tempted to understand faith as rigid adherence to certain doctrines and behaviors. In other words, Christians have understood faith as following a path well marked and defined by others who are so sure (too sure?) of God. With the growing presence of the religious right within the Christian faith, I believe we shall see faith increasingly defined this way. For many, faith is like walking a narrow path—sometimes no wider than a tightrope—without veering to either side.

The Bible, however, presents another model of faith. Both the Hebrew Scriptures, (Genesis) and the New Testament (Paul’s letters and Hebrews) present Abraham and Sarah as examples of genuine and saving faith. This couple had no clear path before them. Although there were, no doubt, many who would have gladly defined a path for them, they chose instead to follow God. Repeatedly throughout the Bible we are told that they did not know the way but trusted God for their destination. They had no infallible map, itinerary, or book to guide them. They only had their understanding of the call and presence of God.

Sarah and Abraham have left us quite a trail. It is a trail which must be discovered afresh by each person who would walk in faith. There are few absolute markers, no short cuts, and plenty of hurdles along the way. And very often this trail is off the beaten track of the majority who prefer easy paths even if they lead to nowhere worthy of their humanity. Imagine what the church might become if we were to take seriously this model of faith—a postmenopausal Sarah and a “good as dead” Abraham (read Hebrews 11) stepping out in faith to create a new nation and following God without the luxury of a well-traveled path.

The Bible calls us to be a pilgrim people. We are challenged to follow Jesus who is the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). By definition pilgrims do not have the advantage of clear-cut paths. They must follow their understanding and experience of the Scout whom they trust knows the way. Brian McLaren has a book entitled We Make the Road by Walking. May each of us incorporate the wisdom of that insightful title in our lives as we make our own roads with God as our Companion.

(I highly recommend any of Brian McLaren’s books. He is one of the most creative and exciting Christian writers of our time. If you want to discover the depths of the Christian faith and how you can grow in faith, hope, and love, you will be blessed by his writings. I know I have. I would suggest you begin with The Secret Message of Jesus. His latest book, The Great Spiritual Migration, is amazing!)

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