What -- the blazes!

Though I can’t find the trail, the white marks guide me.

I just wish this hike didn’t feel so aimless.

This being my 100th post of 8:18, I thought I’d celebrate by finding a quiet spot in the woods to pray and meditate. I pick a state park in the nearby mountains and arrive at the proper time.

Rather than follow the wide, gravel forestry road, I start off on what looks vaguely like a trail. It quickly peters out. But since I’m heading uphill – where most mountain paths eventually go – I have a good chance of picking up a trail on my climb.

And sure enough, I soon see the white blazes. Relieved, I set my course to follow the marked trees up the slope. But the lack of a visible track make the going rough. It’s quite steep here. I’m quickly out of breath and my heart is somersaulting in my chest. At each of my pauses, I begin to wonder if these blazes weren’t just some lost hiker slapping white on whatever random tree he, also, leaned on to pant. But who hikes with paint?

That’s when I see the marker. It informs me that I am not on a trail after all, but simply following the man who marked out the edge of the state forest – literally putting a dotted line through the woods. It’s not that there isn’t a purpose to the blazes.  It’s just a different one than mine.

This was far enough.

Picking a rock, I sit down, get out my New Testament and find myself in Romans 8. Here I discover another trail with blazes, leading from before I was born to after I pass on. For those God foreknew, it tells me, he predestined to become like Jesus. Then he called and justified them. And someday, like the last step on the upward trail, he will finally glorify them.

There are times when I feel that life can be like hiking in Pennsylvania mountains. If you’ve never tried it, know this: the ground is not welcoming. It’s actually more like rocks dressed up as ground for Halloween. All trip and no treat. Life can be like that – not so much difficult as requiring concentration. It’s hard to get a glimpse of where you’re going while looking at your feet. You just hope that you’re headed somewhere good.

God’s word says we are. But it’s not a trail that leads (necessarily) to earthly success, a plethora of friends, and appreciation for our work. He has something better in mind – nothing less than our being as radiant and without blemish as his beloved son. Where everything – every rocky step – finally makes sense.

That’s a pinnacle worth getting breathless over.

Father, we are so often looking at our feet, trying to pick out our way through life. We thank you for the blazes along the way that remind us that you have a plan for us. You know where we’re headed, even if we can scarcely comprehend it. Strengthen us by the sure knowledge that you will see your plan through.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. If you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it!

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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