The Wrong Trail

Here’s a little background to this post: When I started my blog several years ago I named it “Notes From My Journey”. My intent was to write to you about what was happening currently in my life and dig into what I was learning from life’s experiences day by day. Writing for my blog soon became pretty sporadic as it’s hard for me to track life’s learning experiences on a weekly calendar basis. So in January 2021 I recommitted to writing the blog and began with a series on the Prodigal Son from Jesus’ story in Luke 15. I made a commitment to myself that I’d write a new post every week. Then a couple of months into the year, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Cancer and a new and amazing chapter of my life began.

In the midst of all that was going on I managed to post something every week for all of 2021. Much of what I wrote in 2021 is series of posts on topics, questions, application of scriptures, and things I think about. There’s some really good stuff in there and you can find it archived month by month at https://www.jimastephens.com. Then along came 2022 and the SCT and my posting took a hit! I was still sending my GraceNotes daily devotional every day (If you’re not already subscribed you can sign up for the free GraceNotes daily email at https://www.resourceministries.org/devotionals/grace-notes/). But it seemed that my blogging took a backseat and ended up being only a health update once a month.

But early on June 5, as I was walking in the desert east of town with Jake the Desert Bone Dog, something happened! It was a damp and cool, post-rainy but still cloudy, Sunday morning. It was also a very sensory morning. There was a little breeze blowing and it felt good on my face. The pungent scent of wet juniper was strong, and mixed well with the comfortable smell of sage brush. It was really nice!

That morning, I had decided to take a trail that led south to the southern boundary of the BLM reserve where we do much of our desert walking. I hadn’t done that trail since sometime before the transplant and I thought I’d like to see if I had gained back enough strength to do it. I was pretty much lost in thought and prayer and watching Jake be a dog and it was a while, but eventually I realized that time-wise I should be there by now! It was a cloudy, grey morning, so there was no sun to navigate by, and if you’ve hiked in a Juniper desert forest, you know that due to the randomness of the Juniper trees, you can’t see very far in any direction. So I began to watch more carefully around me and thought about the trail details and my surroundings: the lava ridge to my right, the very large dead Juniper ahead on my left, and I realized I was on the wrong trail!

I was heading west, not south, and I wasn’t going to get to the fence and the gate I thought I was headed for! And the end of the trail I was on was too far for the time and energy I had this morning. So I turned around and headed back the way I came. I watched more carefully this time and saw where I had drifted right, off the north-south part of the trail and sort of merged onto the largely unused trail that ran a couple of miles to the west boundary of the BLM reserve. It’s a trail I had walked before and it’s got great features! But I needed to be back to town in time for church. This trail would have to wait for another time and another day’s energy and strength.

Getting on the Wrong Trail changed my plans for the morning’s walk. I had to turn around and go back the way I came and didn’t make it to the south gate I was headed for. I did a lot of thinking and praying and keeping track of Jake for the half hour or so it took to get back to the car, but it was really joyful! It felt like the dryness and the “Inspiration-lessness” I wrote about last week was over. The sense of God’s presence was with me again! By the time church was over and the day ended I felt like God has given me a fresh beginning! Let’s see what happens!

The lessons I learned from the Wrong Trail that morning are really important lessons for me in my present situation! Here’s some of what I’ve been thinking:

    • In eight decades of life, I’ve learned far more from my mistakes than from the things I got right the first time. The wrong trail may not have got me where I thought I was going, but if I learned from my mistake and got back on the right trail as soon as I knew what was happening, nothing was wasted. The thing we’ve got to be careful about in learning from our mistakes is not to learn more from the experience than we should. Mark Twain wrote, “A cat that sits on a hot stove will never sit on a hot stove again. But neither will she sit on a cold stove!”
    • I’m realizing (and I’m not sure how to express this the way I’m seeing it) that I tend to have a very narrow, sometimes too narrow, view of “right trail”/“wrong trail”. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t have clarity on right and wrong in terms of moral issues or in terms of things that are harmful or hurtful to ourselves and others. What I do see more clearly is that a thing that someone else does or the way they do a thing may be right for them but not right for me. Or that a thing may be wrong for me right now, but right at another time or in another situation. Does that make sense to you?
    • Next time I can choose to walk the trail that was the “Wrong Trail” this time. I can go out to the desert when I have the time and energy to walk it to the end and it’ll be great! Choosing that trail at the right time in the right situation makes the “Wrong Trail” the right trail.

As soon as time and energy permits, I plan to drive out to the trailhead and choose the “Wrong Trail” and as soon as I choose it, it won’t be the wrong trail anymore. That trail will take me on a very scenic and enjoyable hike (with some twists and turns and ups and downs) to a new destination of my choice. And Jake the Desert Bone Dog will have the time of his life! Maybe he’ll even come up with a new bone or two!

As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, please leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, I’d love for you to click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.

 

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