A Messy Path

Yesterday I had the opportunity to support a great organization called Project Hope.  My daughter with autism, is part of a fabulous program that provides a wonderful school environment and superb therapy services.  Every year, in November, they have the Hope Relay and she and I walk the 5K portion of the event.  Yesterday the forecast was 100% chance of rain.  I opted to have her sit this one out and I walked alone.

The trail for this 5K is not paved.  It is a cross country trail that is usually a lot of fun.  It is a path that is scenic and beautiful.  But not yesterday.  Yesterday it was dark and gloomy, raining hard, and the path was very, very messy.  I had to watch my footing, so as not to fall because of the mud and all the slippery places.  There were spots that I walked through where the water completely covered my shoes.  Once, I took a step and my shoe got stuck in some mud and I thought I was going to leave my shoe behind.  I even missed a turn and got off the trail.  I was watching right in front of me and missed the sign telling me which way to go.  It added maybe another mile to my walk through the storm and I didn’t see another soul the whole time, until I came back to a place I had already been.  And of course, I looked like a real dork in my giant, blue poncho.  Kind of like Violet Beauregarde in Mr. Wonka’s chocolate factory. But I have never been so grateful for a poncho.

At the beginning of the walk, there were several of us bunched together, but then the crowd thinned out and I was on my own.  I could see two walkers a far way out in front of me and someone behind me, but basically, I was left alone to my own thoughts and pace. I did not mind being on my own, however, because it was the quietest moment, I had to myself in a very long time. I took the opportunity to “prayer walk”.  Before the walk I wrote names on my arm of children and families impacted by autism. I prayed for them as I walked. In my heart, that 5K was a worship session.  I cried over the families I prayed for and then I cried over God’s goodness and the fact that He can meet us in the rain on a messy path in the middle of the woods.

While I walked through the rain, and tried not to slip in the mud, and waded through the water, and wondered if I would ever get back to the actual path, and tried to keep my hands from freezing and my contacts from washing away,  I realized that this 5K walk was a lot like the journey of living through autism.  And like other trials and struggles we face as well. God reminded me of some very important truths that I want to share with you.

  1. Storms come. But they do not last forever.  Sometimes when we are going through hard times, all we can see is the dark and gloom and think it will never end.  We face that as parents of children with autism.  But even though autism doesn’t go away, it isn’t all storms.  There are bright days, moments when something amazing happens and we get the privilege of seeing our kids shine.  And in other areas of grief, struggle and hardship, we must remember there will be sunshine again.  I do not know when.  But it will come.
  2. Sometimes we can’t avoid the mud holes. Sometimes we just must march right through them.  It is our tendency to step around the puddles and avoid the messy parts, but sometimes there is no other way through.  Just tackle it.  Jump right in.  The sooner you wade through it, the sooner you can get to the other side.
  3. If you only look down at what is right in front of you, and don’t look up to see the signs, you will miss the direction you need to go. Sometimes we become so overwhelmed by the storm, by the mud, by the cold that we only have our eyes downcast. But looking up, we can see the signs God has for us.  We can see when He wants us to change direction.  He wants to keep us on the path that will get us to the destination we need to arrive at.
  4. Sometimes when you are on a messy path, you feel all alone, but we never, ever walk alone. God is faithful to be closer than we can imagine.  He is with us, around us and in us.
  5. Like in this 5K, there are sometimes people in front of you that are walking the same path. They are a few steps in front of you.  Watch how they walk it.  It can help you avoid some pitfalls.  Likewise, there are people coming behind you watching you as well. Don’t be afraid to point them in the right direction.
  6. There are times when we are on a journey that we actually loop around and come back to a place we have already been. We have to re-walk that portion of the path. Regardless of why or how that happened, learn from it.
  7. If you are going to take a messy path in the rain, be sure that you are dressed for the journey.  If you are going to weather the storms of life, then put on God’s armor, and some tough skin.
  8. In this 5K there were occasionally people along the sidelines cheering us on. God will bring those people to you, but don’t expect them often.  Just keep swimming. No matter what.
  9. Sometimes it is only in the storm, seemingly alone, that we are free from the distractions that keep us from hearing the voice of God. When all the distractions are gone our vision is much more singular.  The things that are most important loom in front of us and we can focus more clearly on what God is saying to us.

Friends, we sometimes find ourselves on messy paths.  But they ARE going somewhere.  They have a destination that we need to arrive at, and we just have to stay steadfast.  Even when you can’t see the destination and you are trying desperately not to slip and must slow down and travel slower than you are used to, there will be a finish.  God will see you through.