Make your paths straight

If anyone is looking for me on most Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, they can find me in the preschool wing of my church. Our curriculum has a video series which we show the 3 year-olds to kindergarteners to reinforce their classroom lessons. The kids begin in their rooms, then about 15 minutes into Bible class time, they all come out to me on the area we call the “green triangle” (named after the color and shape of the carpeting in front of the television).

 

We sing a few songs, and then I ask someone to switch off the lights. [Side note: Being the Chosen One who turns off the lights is a GIANT deal. I always choose a child I know can handle the task without a) needing assistance from me which would remove me from my post, or b) run out the door to escape. For the last two years I asked my youngest son to complete this task most of the time. Knowing he was about to age out of the preschool and move on to the elementary wing, I had him mentor a few reliable 4 year-olds. It was an interesting take on discipleship and a reminder that people like to be made to feel special.]

 

Once the lights are off and the mood is set, we watch the video which shows a character who is questioning or struggling with a problem. An animated owl named Ollie overhears and offers a related Bible story to help them resolve their issues. Each month, there’s a new theme and Bible verse. Before we watch the video we practice the verse. This month it’s Proverbs 3:5—just the first part. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”

 

I love this verse, especially when you look at the complete thought – Proverbs 3:5,6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

 

Working on this with the kids helped me I realize that I learned this verse in different versions:

“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

“In all your ways acknowledge Him,And He shalldirect your paths.” (NKJV)

“In all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” (CSB)

“Seek his will in all you do,and he will show you which path to take.” (NLT)

 

I started thinking about the difference between God “showing which path to take” or “directing my paths” and “making my path straight”.  They seem different, don’t they? The most literal translation is “make your paths straight.” The idea is clearing all obstructions and obstacles out of the way.

 

That’s not to say God doesn’t want to tell you with path to take. In Isaiah 30:21, we learn that “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (NIV)

 

But the Scriptures teach us about the versatility of God, and His willingness to wait for us and find us and know us. So sometimes He will whisper to tell us which way to go and sometimes He will remove obstacles in our path. In the end, He just asks us to trust him.

 

When I look back at the ways God has used me and challenged me, I see times when God removed the obstacles to pave the way for me to act. Upon reflection, I’m given the blessing of standing further down a road and looking back to see where I’ve been. Often I can understand a little better why the detours and the roadblocks came just when they did. God was providing me with a path made straight both by His foresight and His desire to bless me.

Firm foundation

Going on a cruise for Spring Break sounded like such a good idea. Just think of all the places you can go and all the things you can see! Everyone tells you about the all-day access to food and the fun excursions and the swimming pool on the ship but no one tells you about the post-cruise misery.

 

I’m not talking about the piles of laundry or the unavoidability of going back-to-work/school. Nor am I discussing the fact that now that we’re home, no one is coming in my room while I’m at supper to turn down my bed and leave cute animals made from hand towels and washcloths. No, my problem is something else. Days after the cruise has ended, my brain still thinks I’m on a boat.

 

Though on dry land, the floor still slopes and slants. I have to reach out and lean against the wall to steady myself when I walk down the hallway at home. My head feels heavy and my feet shuffle slowly. My own mixed-up body betrays me.

 

I’ve been told that I’m waiting for the motion sickness medicine I used throughout the trip to wear off. Ironically, the medicine that kept me from feeling nauseated on the boat is now making me feel nauseated on land. Go figure.

 

This seasickness has got me thinking about what’s underneath me, where I find my footing, and what gives me the most stability. I think of Jesus’ parable about the wise man who built his house upon a firm foundation.

 

Jesus tells this story at the end of his famous 3-chapter long sermon in Matthew. He tells the people how to be blessed in Matthew 5. Then He continues with practical rules about how to treat others and how to live a holy, fulfilling life in Matthew 6. By the end of Matthew 7, I wonder if the minds of the people were swimming in all these instructions. It’s hard to remember that this may have been brand new, unprecedented information for Jesus’ audience.

 

So in His wisdom, Jesus gives the people an object lesson. He tells them that all of these practices He has given them can be like the foundation of a house. When (not if) the bad times come, the house will stand because the foundation is solid. On the contrary, hearing what Jesus teaches but not authentically living them out loud leaves them with shifting sand beneath them.

 

Somewhere in our mixed-up brains, we say that freedom in Christ is the permission to live any old way we want. The teachings that made our salvation possible look irrelevant or old-fashioned. But Jesus offers a practical guide to home-building. He says, “Give to the needy. Don’t worry. Love your enemies. Store up your treasures in heaven.” Make these the bedrock for your life so that the storms won’t topple you.