“Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You. …
“The LORD is good and does what is right; He shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them His way. The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep His covenant and obey His demands. …
“Who are those who fear the LORD? He will show them the path they should choose. They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land. The LORD is a friend to those who fear Him. He teaches them His covenant. My eyes are always on the LORD, for He rescues me from the traps of my enemies. …
“May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in You.”
— Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 12-15, 21 (NLT)
I spent my childhood in the little town of Bel Air, Maryland. My father moved our family there sometime before I started first grade, settling us in a newly-built housing development carved out of woodlands and pastures. The homes across the street backed up to a forest that was crisscrossed with trails made by deer looking for the cool springs and streams hidden in the woods.
I explored those trails at length, searching them for treasures and excellent climbing trees. I would disappear into the woods for hours, sometimes with friends, more often alone, always curious where this fork or that curve would lead me. Much later, when I got my driver’s license, I would explore the back roads of Raleigh, NC in my VW Beetle, just to satisfy my curiosity about what lay beyond the next hill.
Something about a road not taken pulls on me, even today.
Not all paths are created equal. Some are dead ends. Some will take you off into the thickets and leave you torn and bloody. But every now and then, the most nondescript path will open up suddenly to a shaded sanctuary, and you’ll want to go back as often as possible.
When I was young, there was a TV show called Route 66. It followed Buz and Tod, two carefree friends out to explore America in their silver Corvette convertible. Buz and Tod found adventure around every curve, and they seemed to speak for every young person straining to escape our provincial little hometowns for a place where exciting things happened.
The underappreciated prophet Tom Cochrane may have expressed that feeling best:
“There’s a world outside every darkened door,
Where the blues won’t haunt you anymore,
Where the brave are free and lovers soar,
Come ride with me to the distant shore.
“Life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long.”
— Tom Cochrane, “Life is a Highway”
David, writing in Psalm 25, likens his own life to a journey along a series of trails. As a young boy who led his father’s sheep into grazing lands, David was a student of the Judean wildlands. He knew which trails led to green pastures and quiet waters, and his sheep could depend on him to lead them along the path to safely.
But as an adult, David often found himself in unfamiliar places. He couldn’t tell if the roads he traveled would lead to dry wells or cool streams, to hostile tribes or friendly homesteads. He realized that he needed an experienced and dependable guide who knew the lay of the land.
“Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by Your truth and teach me, for You are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in You.”
— Psalm 25:4-5 (NLT)
God knows the trails; God knows us. He wants to direct us along roads rich in hope, along paths that are good and true, into villages where our souls will be safe from harm.
David was not afraid of the risks of wandering in unfamiliar places, but David was wise enough to know the value of a trustworthy guide.
“The LORD is good and does what is right; He shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them His way. The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep His covenant and obey His demands.”
— Psalm 25:8-10 (NLT)
I’ve gotten lost a few times. It’s easy to lose your bearings, to become disoriented, or to go so far in a new direction or a new place that nothing is familiar any more. David seems to take it as a given that we’ll get lost, but he also takes it as a given that God will put us back on the right trail again, if we’re humble enough to ask for His help. The joke about men not asking for directions comes to mind here, but the truth is that all of us get ourselves into situations where we refuse to believe we don’t know what we’re doing, despite convincing evidence to the contrary.
Our Guide wants to teach us the trails, but we have to be teachable. When we’re lost, we have to stop flailing around, swallow our pride and ask for help.
God is not vindictive. God is not eager to say, “I told you so.” David says that the Lord, our Guide, is full of “unfailing love and faithfulness” to all those who are ready to follow His lead.
“Who are those who fear the LORD? He will show them the path they should choose. They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land. The LORD is a friend to those who fear Him. He teaches them His covenant. My eyes are always on the LORD, for He rescues me from the traps of my enemies.”
— Psalm 25:12-15 (NLT)
The Lord our Guide is a friend. He wants to prosper us. He wants our children and our loved ones to live well and to experience the blessings of walking beside Him in friendship.
But there are dangers ahead. We have to pay attention. We have to keep the Guide in sight and resist the temptation to wander down enticing shortcuts. As we walk together, our Guide wants to teach us the craft and understanding we’re going to need for the long journey ahead.
“May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in You.”
— Psalm 25:21 (NLT)
Integrity and honesty are not the first things that come to my mind when I think about finding my way in life. Integrity in the Hebrew suggests completeness; I see a shattered pottery teapot that has been cemented back together with a couple of pieces missing – not much good, because it lacks integrity.
David realizes that he is most at risk when he holds something back, when he isn’t 100% committed to following God’s lead in this journey. Integrity doesn’t prevent doubts or reservations, but integrity means setting them aside and trusting God to lead.
And honesty? David may be cautioning us about self-deception. We are so good at rationalization. We are so clever at being able to talk ourselves into some innocent-sounding compromise when the journey gets difficult. We have to be honest with ourselves, and we have to attune our hearts to hear the honest counsel of the Holy Spirit.
If life is a journey, if life is a highway, it seems to me we have a choice between striking off on our own or finding a guide to lead us. Everything about David’s story suggests that he was brave, competent, smart, and at times, heroic. And yet, he was willing to admit that he needed God to guide him in his life journey. It’s something to think about.