Proper footwork is important. To dance well, to hit or field a baseball, to be a good defender in any sport, to play soccer well, or to play a pipe organ beautifully takes good footwork. I’m thinking about this because last week my wife Barb and I had the opportunity to help out at the Friendship Camp at Cran-Hill Ranch. She was asked to be the RN for the week and I went along to help out if and where needed.
Throughout the week we were all engaged by the chaplain, John Cleveringa. He did some wonderful presentations on the theme verse from Proverbs 4:26-27 (New Living Translation). “Mark out a straight path for your feet … Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” Near the end of the week Barb and I walked one of the nature trails and doing so actually made the verse come alive even more. Here are a few brief reminders and lessons the verse and trail provided for me.
“Mark out (make) a straight path for your feet…” We are not, at birth, automatically placed on a life path. We either wander aimlessly
through life or we choose a path. When Barb and I decided to take a walk we first had to choose which trail, which path to take. There were plenty of options and none of them came to us – we had to choose. The same is true in life. There are an overwhelming number of paths to walk through life. At some point we must choose which one to walk. John the Baptist was called to “guide our feet in the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79) He did so by pointing people to Jesus who said of Himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) While ‘choosing Jesus’ certainly means we have the guarantee of eternal life with Him, it also means He is the straight path for our feet – choosing Jesus is to commit to walk after, to follow Him.”
Don’t get sidetracked…” The reality is there are many paths that can be followed. As Barb and I walked our chosen trail we came across several side trails. We had no idea whether they went to a nicer place or if they led only deeper into the woods. We were tempted to walk some of them. It was easy to get sidetracked. So it is with life. There are always others paths along the way, some appealing and some not. It’s easy to let our curiosity get the better of us and change paths. But the wise preacher reminds us that it is not wise to do so: “Don’t get sidetracked.” Changing paths could lead to trouble, danger or dead-ends. It can lead to delay in reaching our chosen goal and destination.
But how do we stay on track? “…keep your feet from following evil.” To ‘keep’ is to continue or cause to continue in a specified condition, position, course…to continue doing repeatedly or habitually. As we walked Barb and I had to keep our feet headed in the direction of the trail we had chosen. It took some effort and discipline, just like staying on track in life. It is difficult, if not impossible to stay on the chosen path without daily, repeated, habitual disciplines. (1) They help us stay on our chosen course to avoid “evil’ – the trouble, danger and dead-ends. Spending time with God through reading the Word and praying helps keep our feet on the path. Through these disciplines we are shown the steps to take. As the Psalmist put it “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105 New Living Translation)
While keeping our feet on the path is often very difficult, God offers His help along the way. “Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling.” (Psalm 66:9 New Living Translation) And He also offers some very precious promises as incentive for doing so. As The Message states Ps. 119:1-8 – “You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.”
In light of these promises the Psalmist reaffirms his commitment to proper footwork and I invite you to do the same. “You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.”
(1) I acknowledge that there are other Spiritual Disciplines but I am focusing here on the ones more apt to be daily.