Some days are postcard perfect days. The sky is blue and the sun’s warm rays kiss your skin. The breeze is light and the soft sand moves gently between your toes. The sea is inviting. Waves frolic as they caress the shoreline. The sapphire-blue sea is breathtaking and enticingly peaceful. These are the days that fill us with delight. The days when the world seems right, as if nothing could ever go wrong. Perfection surrounds us, we breath it in, almost tangible, and we laugh with great ease.
Then, every so often the weather turns. Unexpectedly, we walk out our door, desiring light and warmth only to be confronted with hostility. Rain hovers on the horizon, threatening to engulf all. Clouds hang low, the sun is lost, and darkness obscures the vision that was clear moments before.
Where once there was peace, the waves hammer the shoreline mercilessly, trying to drag everything into its dark-grey depths. The wind is relentless. Stealing strength with every step, driving you to look for shelter. To escape the elements that once were a friend, but are now the enemy.
Often, in these moments, if we look we can find hidden paths. Some are narrow. Some are wider.
Paths that offer relief. Paths that offer protection. Paths that offer contemplation.
Below the clashing branches that border the shoreline are trails. It is amazing how quickly you can find relief when you change direction. With one step, we disappear from the exposed landscape into a hidden canopy of peace. Stillness rules the atmosphere, a glance backwards reminds us of the wilderness we have just left, but here, a few steps off our course, we find peace.
Drawing aside into a quiet place, when the world seems chaotic, brings peace. Be still, and know that I am God (Ps 46:10) whispers the trees. Struggling against the wind, it is impossible to hear the voice. Striving to make ground against the hostile elements is futile. Sometimes we need to change direction and take a new path. It is hidden but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. We can find a new way, one that takes us somewhere we never imagined and fills our life with surprises untold, all the while offering us relief from our past pain. We may even discover a greater destination than we had originally intended by seeking a path of relief.
Sometimes, the elements are so harsh we need a path to greater protection. A hidden cave, away from the world. When the driving rain offers no relief and the tree canopy is not enough. Then we head to a secret place of refuge. A place of strength and covering, where we feel shielded from the perilous elements that seek to hunt us down. Here we dwell and wait. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust (Ps 91:2) echo the walls of rock that encase us. This is a promise-holding place. Where we recall the words of love spoken to us, no matter how elusive they seem. I will protect her, for she acknowledges my name (Ps 91:14b) floats on the air and begs us to tightly grab hold. Deliverance will come. The threat will abate and the journey can continue. These paths offer protection, respite when the journey is too difficult – just for the moment.
Then there are paths that we unexpectedly take. One turn leads to another and we find ourselves lost in a new direction. Options abound. Bridges into unchartered territory offer excitement in the exploration, leading us to places that we had never considered.
Or around another bend we discover open spaces. Freedom to run and laugh, to be who we desire to be away from the restrictive elements of the past.
Or abodes of contemplation, sacred and reflective, beckoning us to think beyond the next step. Moments of new vision and clarity that we never would have uncovered if not for taking the hidden path. Here, each step forward declares trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (Prov 3:5); the path does not matter, the heart ensures the direction.
Yes, some days are not postcard perfect. Yet, amid the hostile days we can find beauty. We can find stillness despite the storm. We can find refuge and love in the protection of the hidden. We can find freedom, excitement, and new vision in spaces undiscovered. Sometimes the unexpected hidden paths lead us to the adventure we never knew we needed.