The heedless hiker

The heedless hiker

There are plenty of warning signs.

I mean that literally.  First, at the base of the hill of switchbacks, a large, carved sign specifically speaks to my situation.  Yes, the ground is icy.  Yes, the trail is a bit slick.  Thank you, sign.

But I will press on.

Determined, I make my way up the slippery slope.  It feels like a metaphor for the last ten months – tricky, twisting, demanding every step to placed carefully.  But unlike the challenging pandemic road the world has been forced to travel, I chose to walk this path.

I’m not sure it was a good idea.  But I press on.

I’m thinking about a single verse that jumped out at me in Isaiah this morning.  On its own, it feels quite encouraging.

You wearied yourself by such going about,
    but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’
You found renewal of your strength,
    and so you did not faint.   Isaiah 57:10

There you go, can-do spirit!  Tired but undaunted, you face the stiff wind and persist.  You don’t lose hope – and find new strength in your determination.

You press on.

Except, God means this as a criticism.  This last portion of Isaiah turns from the exalted view of the blessings achieved by the Suffering Servant to look at the pathetic reality of the people of God.  Their weariness has come from seeking alliances with other political powers in order to secure their safety.

And they’ve done despicable things in order to placate foreign gods.

I’m convinced there are two cries of the heart that God will never ignore.  One is that almost wordless ache of submission and need.  It’s more than just “Help me!”  Many people ask for help with no intention of following him.  The true cry of need adds a recognition of his sovereignty over our helplessness.  Isaiah, in an earlier chapter, makes this plain: “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (40:31)

There have been times on walks, lately, when I’ve been so tired of this pandemic and decisions and difficulties and myself, I have just looked up with a welling sense of inadequacy – and knew that God promised to meet me there.

In the woods, a little side path leads toward an open field.  For some reason, Matthew 11:29 comes to mind:

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

And when I break out of the woods into open field, I look up at the wide sky.  There, above me, is a heart-shaped break in the clouds.  Or is it a dove?  Either way, it fills my heart with gratitude.  It’s a dramatic reminder of the gentleness and humble love of Jesus.

I stand, alone only on the visible plane, arms outstretched.  And praise wells up within me, like an overflowing of my spirit.

Which is the second cry the heart he will always hear.

Lord, you are the strength we need.  Forgive our stubborn self-reliance.  We willingly take on your yoke, Lord Jesus, for our souls need the rest that only you can give.

Reader: How have you seen Jesus meet you in your weakness?

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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.