And I will learn to walk in your ways
Step by step you lead me
And I will follow you all of my days
Have you ever noticed that God often works in paradoxes? As Christians, we desire to walk in his steps, looking for his footprints, following in his ways. We struggle because God’s leading is not always clear to us. We often scan ahead, looking for him to show us exactly which way to step – where to place our foot. Perhaps we misunderstand the way God leads. Have you ever considered the idea that God may lead us from behind?
Is 30:21 says, “You will hear a voice BEHIND you saying … this is the way, walk in it …”
Psalm 23 tells us that God is our shepherd and he leads us … In verse 6, David states, “Surely Goodness and Love will follow me …”. Goodness and Love? That’s God personified … following …
Being led from behind is hard. It’s uncomfortable. It requires faith steps. We would rather God led us from the front … “step this way … turn left … take three steps … that’s it … a little closer. …” I have seen people paralysed in life, waiting for God to tell them what to do. They won’t make any decisions because they are waiting. We are to look to God for his direction but he did not make us robots! He gave us a brain, he gave us choices and he delights in us using both. God delights in our faith. If he is to lead us from the front, telling us every step and every move, where is the faith? We are called to walk by faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God.
Is it possible that we have been walking our faith journey with a tightrope mentality? That we see God’s guidance as a tightrope upon which we must walk, maintaining balance for fear that we will fall off? Thinking … if we fall off, we have missed it!? We have missed God? What a constricted way to live life. Perhaps we should think of God’s guidance being like a playground. He is stretching his hand out gesturing at all the fun things, telling us to go and enjoy. Perhaps he is saying, “go and play on whatever you want but DO NOT step outside the fence! Run free … and enjoy!” This is more in tune with the God I know … Job 36:16 tells me that he is bringing me into a spacious place free from restriction.
If God is leading from behind, has he left us to fumble our way? Nope! He is ever with us, guiding, encouraging, supporting, LEADING! Here is another analogy. Think of a child learning to ride a bike. They have their wee training wheels. Their parent runs along behind them with a hand on the back of the seat – every now and then helping with the steering. The parent’s goal is not that the child would remain dependent. Their goal is that the child experiences the freedom and joy of riding solo … independence! It is a proud moment when they let go of the bike and their child continues to fly along! This new found independence does not mean we are completely on our own. We still have the father calling, guiding, encouraging and supporting us. His eye is on us 24/7. As Psalm 139 says, where can we flee from his presence? Nowhere. He hems us in behind and before. But he wants us to grow up, spread our wings and fly! (Or, sticking to my analogy, ditch the training wheels and ride baby, ride!)
So what is it that hinders us in our faith journey? Fear is a big one … we don’t like to make mistakes. We don’t want to fall over … I see this same tendency with the children I teach. They don’t want to take risks … they look to me to provide them with all the answers. I would be a poor teacher if I obliged them. They would always be dependent on me and would never grow. Often in the process of learning, they are very uncomfortable when I do not provide immediate answers. One of my often repeated comments with my students, is that failure is not failure … its an opportunity to learn. If they learn from their mistakes, they have grown. What is important is that they try. That they take a risk and think for themselves!
Think of when a baby starts to take it’s first steps. They take one, wobble … and another … wobble … each step bringing them that little bit closer to being free … being able to run! There are many times that they fall down in this process. A loving parent doesn’t turn their back and say “useless child! What’s wrong with you. That’s it! You will never walk. You are a failure!” A loving parent is thrilled with each step that baby takes. Indeed, in talking with many of my friends, those first steps are some of the most exciting milestones in their child’s development.
Sometimes we don’t want to take steps because we don’t know which way to step. My advice is just start stepping. What’s in your hand? What’s in your heart? Start to take steps – ANY steps. If they are the wrong steps, you will hear that voice behind you saying, “mind the way. A little to the left …” If we fall, we get up … find our balance and then we step again … and again. As Rich sings in Sometimes by Step,
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond your reach
I once had a picture of Peter stepping out onto the water. If the water had been hard when he stepped on it, there would have been no faith involved. The thing I came away from the picture with, was a strong sense that the water firms as you place your foot on it. We have someone whose hand is on us and who hems us in behind and before. He has made the way. He helps us stand … follows behind helping with balance … and takes joy in our steps. What else is there to say but ... Run baby run!