“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
I spent the first two weeks of October on vacation back in my hometown in Ohio. It was a wonderful time away and a needed respite from the hecticness of life. My hometown, or what I consider my hometown since I lived out in the countryside and approximately 15 miles from downtown, is known for several things. I think the one thing most people who live around there will agree on is the sidewalks. Not that they are wonderful but that they are interesting and quite perilous to navigate at night.
Here are a couple examples and the pictures do not do them justice. It is worse than it appears!
And they are that way all over town. So, since I have been walking to keep in shape, I continued to walk while on vacation. As I walked, I kept noticing the condition of the sidewalks and began to think about them and how they are a metaphor for life. You see, some of the sidewalks in town are wonderful. They are smooth, even and easy to traverse. You could walk these sections at night and not worry. Life is that way at times. Everything is going well. There are no issues to contend with and no worries to keep you up at night. In fact, life is good.
But some of the sidewalks were uneven. Raised up by hidden tree roots. And I couldn’t help but think about the times in life when we are hit with unexpected news. Usually not good news and it puts some serious wrinkles in the plans we have. We need find ways to safely navigate the problems we are now facing. It could be the loss of a job, relationship, or other loss. Or it could be an unexpected repair bill, or maybe an unplanned pregnancy. No matter what it is, our path is no longer as easy as it once was. During these times we need to travel carefully as we mindfully navigate the tripping hazards in our life sidewalk.
Some of the sidewalks I walked along were missing sections. They had been broken up and eroded away. Some of the sidewalk pieces were probably even taken away over time. However it happened, that section of sidewalk was just not there. In life, those are the times when it feels as if God is not there. Trust me when I tell you: God is always there whether we can feel God or not. It is in those times when we can see where we need to go but the way there is not defined, unclear, foggy, or even missing that we need to lean into our faith and trust that when the time is right God will make our pathway clear. Notice, I didn’t say God would make our pathway easy…just that God will illuminate the next steps we can take.
Finally, there were times in my wandering on the sidewalks of my hometown that the sidewalk just ended. It wasn’t there. There was no path forward and the only thing I could do was turn around and retrace my steps or find another route to get to my destination. Sometimes in life we are faced with endings. Some are thrust on us and some are necessary. If we pay attention, we might recognize sooner rather than later when a necessary ending needs to occur. For advice on this topic I recommend Henry Cloud’s book “Necessary Endings.” At some point in time, we will all face a necessary ending. It could be a job that is going nowhere but we are too afraid to make a change until we hit that dead end. It could be a toxic relationship we hang onto and we are too afraid for one reason or another to leave. Maybe you just need to downsize and don’t want to let go of all the stuff that fills your life. Whatever the ending that needs to happen, you can choose when that will be or it will eventually happen when you reach the end of your sidewalk and realize you must make a change.
I loved walking the sidewalks in my hometown. I got a lot out of my wanderings and the musings that came along with them and I could continue to talk about the many different ways sidewalks can mirror life. But for now, I guess the question we all may want to wrestle with is what kind of sidewalk are we on today? Is it clear of debris, smooth and easy to walk? Or is it filled with obstacles, tripping hazards, and other dangers? Whatever your path, know that God has a plan for you and for your life…a good plan…a plan to prosper you and not to harm you. A plan to give you hope and a future.
Just remember, God’s definition of prosper is not the same as ours!