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  • Anonymous

Veering Off Path: A Spiritual Journey Through Lent and Beyond

With Jonah’s feast behind us and the Great Holy Lent ahead, I thought it appropriate to reflect on the path God sets before us.

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to hike a challenging yet wondrous trail that veered through the lowest valleys and trekked above the highest mountaintops. Throughout the entire trail, I was guided by an app that had a preset path for me. However, I soon found it wasn’t as clear as I thought, leading me to veer off multiple times. The app would show the correct path in green and the route I was taking in blue. And while I started just fine, the majority of the route was a constant struggle to find the correct path as I unintentionally deviated. I would continue straight when I should’ve turned or followed in the steps of those ahead of me when I was supposed to venture off onto untracked paths. There were even points where the same trail signs pointed in two opposing directions. How was I supposed to know whether to go left or right? Not to mention the actual difficulty of the path. I climbed almost 1,300 ft in elevation and nearly doubled the distance of my path at altitudes over 6,000 ft, inching my way across 45-degree icy slopes on my hands and knees for fear of a fatal fall.

As I hiked, I noticed that what was supposed to be a 2.5-mile journey was turning into 5 miles. How did I nearly double my original distance? This reminded me of Moses and the Israelites' exodus from Egypt. Moses traveled 40 years on a path that could’ve taken 11 days. The parallel between both stories made me realize a truth I had previously struggled with: God is not a god of efficiencies and optimizations, as we have become so accustomed to in our professional and personal lives. A day is equivalent to a thousand years, or a thousand years to one of His days. He exists outside of time, and even time is understood differently than the man-made construct we exist within. We’ve become so fixed on reaching deadlines, reducing inefficiencies in our lives, and optimizing the quality of our existence, almost forgetting the transformation that God wants us to experience throughout the journey in preparation for the glory at the journey's end.

Consider the book of Job. Throughout all 42 chapters, only the first half of the 1st chapter describes the righteous life of Job and his family. After just four verses, we begin to see Satan's desire to attack his life, and by the end of the first chapter, all that Job loved was gone. In fact, the NKJV, throughout all 42 chapters, contains 1,070 verses, which means that the author reflected on the former glory of Job for about 0.4% of the entire book. And when speaking of the restoration of Job’s latter days, the author spends the last 7 verses on how God doubled all he had previously lost, accounting for only 0.7% of the entire book. This highlights that the focus of Job’s story, at least 99% of it, is on the journey and transformation that shaped a man after God. It highlights Job's deep suffering, his wrestle with God, and how he strongly held onto his faith, acknowledging his own frailty compared to God's omnipotence. This isn’t to dismantle the beneficial mindset of having goals and objectives and setting out a course to achieve such milestones. However, recognize that while those things are necessary and valuable, God has His ways of accomplishing them with you. The bigger picture for Him is what you become throughout the pursuit.

In the spirit of celebrating the recent commemoration of our beloved father, St. Pope Kyrillos VI, he is quoted saying, “Trust that God sees you. He hears you and feels for you, so your little matters are very big before His love and your big matters are very small before His might.”

Our paths throughout life may leave us constantly with the death-inducing question of “Why?” Why did God allow me to veer off? Why is this taking so much time? Why did God allow this to happen? Realize that God loves you so much that He allows your free will to trump His control over you. Speak to Him, wrestle with Him, but don’t for a moment fall into the temptation of believing that God does not see what is happening or isn’t actively seeking out the correction of your ways.

Sometimes the path ahead looks too difficult. We may be overcome with fear of failing or disappointing, the fear of leaving the known to be confronted with the unknown. How many of us simply shy away from what we know is right for the responsibility that it will bear as a result? C.S. Lewis says, “No man knows how bad he is till he tries to be good.” We must confront the darkness within us by constantly returning to the light through our works and faith. What does our life amount to if it is not a noble and faithful pursuit of righteousness for the glory of God?

I pray that this upcoming season of Lent be one that corrects, sharpens, and meets you at the foot of the cross.

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