Ever since I was little, I’ve loved exploring. Encouraging our kids to explore is one main reason that I encourage them off the beaten path too!
Sometimes, these adventures bring up reactions that I don’t expect at all, which is exactly what happened on our last adventure.
A Time to Go Off the Beaten Path
We have been exploring a new area of Texas lately. Our adventures take us to new sites and sounds and many new parks. One of the parks we have enjoyed is the World Adventure Park. Not only does is the playground itself unique and have a built in scavenger hunt as well as enough swings for all our kids, but it also has a nature walk adventure.
After playing on the playground for about an hour, we started our nature walk adventure. At first, we followed the path. That was easy enough to do since the initial walkway had rails on both sides.
Soon enough that pre-built pathway ended and every time we came to a fork in the road, a different child had the opportunity to choose which path we would take.
It was at this point where I saw there were two distinct camps among our children:
- One group wanted to take the scariest path every time.
- One group wanted to take the safest path every time.
It was a fun time overall UNTIL we apparently took too many paths that led out of the park.
The Path that Led to Fear
After several off the beaten path choices, we ended up following a trickling stream. The canopy of trees grew a little denser but the path was clear. The footprints were clearing ours, a few dogs, and then one large animal print that was the size of my head. I chose not to point that one out to the kids because at this point one was starting to panic.
We were too far off the beaten path for him. He just wanted to go back home and did not want to continue.
A large hawk flew overhead. The trees rustled. His little hand stayed tucked in mine.
I encouraged him as best I could that we would find the main path again soon and he did not have to worry.
When big tears started to encroach the rims of his eyes, I realized his fears were overcoming him and we needed to stop and pray.
In my short exploring life, I have had some instances where panic started to set in and the only thing that keeps it at bay is inviting God in to overtake the situation.
So that is what we did. We stopped, circled up, and prayed. We prayed for calm hearts, the opportunity to see God’s beauty in what was around us, and to find the main path soon.
I have a forge on mentality. If something goes wrong, just keep going. In this case, I assumed that turning off the path that followed the stream and turning onto another path that seemed to go northward would get us back to the main park.
Well, we did eventually find an open clearing but it led to a baseball field, which according to my calculations was a little ways away from the park area where we parked.
So we turned around, retraced our steps, enjoyed a daytime owl serenading us until we found the main path again.
Needless to say, my son’s heart was comforted in standing on the main path again.
The Spiritual Connection
“Going off the beaten path” spiritually isn’t necessarily a horrible thing. Sometimes as a church body we get caught up in things that really don’t matter eternally or we allow a few to steer our spiritual connection with God instead of connecting to Him personally. In these instances, it is most definitely needed to go off the beaten path and encounter God ourselves and to listen to where the Holy Spirit is leading.
William Booth’s Example
It reminds me of the story of the William Booth, the man who started the Salvation Army. William Booth’s church leaders decided that the best course of action for his life was to preach to the church body and rejected his idea of going to the slums in the East End of London.
Instead of sticking with his leaders’ pre-approved notion of what God wanted for his life, he turned to the guidance of the the Holy Spirit and taught in the streets to the poor, homeless, and destitute. He left what was comfortable and choose to venture off the beaten path to a place where no one else from the christian community wanted to go. It was a path that looked scary and dark to most, but he wanted to bring light to the path.
His converts to Christ were prostitutes, thieves, drunkards, and those who would never step foot in a traditional church setting. Reaching out to those in this environment was not easy, it required much prayer and trust in the Lord.
We might not have understood the history behind the Salvation Army, but that one man’s choice has impacted thousands of lives. Many of us probably think of the Salvation Army simply as bell ringers during the Christmas holiday. We may either throw in a few coins or try to avoid them, but I want to challenge you now. Every time you hear that bell ring this holiday season, pray and ask God if he is calling you off the beaten path.
Is God asking you to step away from the comforts of the Christianity that you know?
Is he calling you off the beaten path to reach out to those who would never enter the comfortable christian setting that we know?
Are you willing to go off the beaten path and follow Christ wherever He may lead?
Prayer Over Our Hearts
Oh, Lord, help us not get so comfortable that we shirk your calling to reach out to those who don’t know you yet. Give us your courage and strength to step off the beaten path and trust you no matter where you lead.
In the One who left the comforts of Heaven, took the pain of our sin upon him, so that we could have a path back to Heaven – Amen!