At the beginning of the month, Jo and I visited a little Christian retreat centre in South Wales for 5 days – it’s described as being half way up a mountain side, though I think most would call it a hill, albeit a steep one! The gardens and grounds are a delight, though being on a steep hillside they are somewhat rough and rugged underfoot, with the occasional outcrop of rock and are delightfully higgledy piggledy, with short mown grass paths through rough areas, enticing little wrought iron gates and tiny winding paths through tall heathers and shrubs. I couldn’t resist exploring them all, wondering where I’d end up, seeming to go in circles sometimes, almost too big to squash through some of the narrow paths, panting and puffing at some of the steep inclines; I was back in childhood, and the irresistibility of exploring secret paths and going through little gates.
I wondered why, more often than not nowadays, I take the flat, wide, boring and easy road, the route of least resistance, the comfortable path without challenge or demands? And into my mind came Matt.7:13 “Enter God’s kingdom through the narrow gate. The gate is large and the road is wide that lead to death and hell. Many people go that way.”
Ooch! And I thought of Is.30:21 “You will hear your Teacher’s voice behind you. You will hear it whether you turn to the right or the left. It will say, “Here is the path I want you to take. So walk on it.” Sometimes I’m really grateful for that voice of direction or correction, but why every so often do I find a part of me feeling that I don’t want to go that way; it’s too hard, too lonely, too difficult, and I want to stick with everyone else who’s going the other way (“But Dad, everyone’s doing it/going there/wearing that”)
Isaiah says in v.10-11 “They say to the seers, ‘Don’t see any more visions!’
They say to the prophets, ‘Don’t give us any more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things.
Prophesy things we want to hear even if they aren’t true.
Get out of our way! Get off our path!
Keep the Holy One of Israel away from us!’ ”
But isn’t this just like the perfect Dad! “I will give understanding to you who are wayward in spirit and find yourselves going down the wrong path.” (Is.29:24) “Wayward” in the dictionary is listed as: taking one’s own way – perverse deviation – wanting to go one’s own way – turning away. Isaiah a bit earlier, describes such waywardness as a “spirit of dizziness” But Heavenly Dad understands our dizzy ways; He doesn’t just tell us what to do, He comes alongside us, and helps us understand why we need to turn round and get back on track – why His path is best for us.