From my earliest days I was taught to grow up and find something to do. As I grew I learned to see others and be seen based on what they and I did. Even now as an adult, one of the first things people ask when they meet is, “What do you do?”
This is our culture, defined by our accomplishments, visible actions and production over all else. And my own story is fraught with struggles and fears and failures.
I used to think everyone simply chose to do something which they wanted to do. Yet many people are dissatisfied and merely doing that which will hopefully earn enough income to subside on.
One day I wandered off into a wild wood beyond the known world. I found myself standing in a clearing surrounded by paths shooting off in every direction. At first I wondered if this were some kind of test to see which path I would choose, but soon enough I discerned it was not so much a test as it was a discovery into my experience.
The paths around me were comprised of all types. Some of the paths were paved and smooth and obvious. They looked the easiest to travel and so I chose one and stepped on it, only to be kicked back out by an invisible force. I tried similar paths only to experience the same thing. These paths then were obviously not meant for me to travel.
Another type of path was gravelly and narrow, yet welcoming in its own way. I tried to start down three of these paths only to feel the gravel slide out from under me, landing me repeatedly on my backside. Clearly not the path I was to go on.
The muddy, swampy paths did not appeal nor did ones reeking of skunk and rotting carcasses. There were dirt paths I thought for sure I would find my way on but the paths were overgrown in many places and some disappeared altogether.
After a time I identified all paths diverged in the wood and I chose none of them, regardless of more or less traveled.
One day near the base of a tree I came across a machete and attempted to travel one of the dirt paths, clearing out the overgrowth and hacking my way a bit farther in. Alas, it was too hard and so I abandoned the trail and returned to the start. I next chose a swampy, muddy path with the intent of using the machete to work my way around the pools of muck and mud. Unfortunately, I quickly landed myself in the midst of a huge muddy, sludgy puddle which nearly sucked me in before I managed to pull my feet to steady ground.
All of these paths and all of these opportunities closed off to me completely! It’s not fair, I thought. Why shouldn’t one of these paths work for me?
Frustrated, I tried more of them again and again, only to be rejected and returned to the clearing, dejected and hopeless.
One portion of the wood seemed to shimmer a bit and I advanced forward, only to discover a giant mirror hidden behind some bramble. I cleared the bramble away and peered into the mirror which strangely hid my reflection but reflected paths behind me which I was sure I hadn’t tried yet. I turned to these paths and had to look back to the mirror several times before I realized it was trickery. The paths didn’t exist, or if they did, I had not the slightest clue of where to access them.
I tried to wiggle behind the mirror under the assumption that perhaps the mirror itself was there to keep me from a path behind it. However, as soon as I slipped past the mirror, the undergrowth snagged on to me so tightly, my arms and legs under my torn shirt and pants were bloody and raw from multiple deep scratches and cuts.
Angry at the illusion and the reality of paths not meant for me, I ranted and raved, and swore and screamed and cried.
After a time I thought, Maybe I’m meant to forge my own path. I picked up the machete which I had thrown across the clearing and headed for an area lacking any path whatsoever. I swung and sweat for a long time, moving slowly forward. This is going to work, I thought, until I looked back to find I’d only slashed my way in a few feet.
By now the light in the clearing had shifted and shadows crept closer every moment. I curled up in the clearing hoping for better results the next day.
The next day I met with similar results. Several days later I was surprised to notice I could actually move farther along on several paths before they rejected me. Some days I found myself pretending to be someone else which resulted in my being able to take more steps down a given path. Still, it was inevitable I’d come across a place in the path where it was impossible to advance farther in.
Always I returned to the clearing to sleep. A growing sense of uselessness consumed me as I slept and dreamed of the known world where people did things. Everyone seemed to find something to do, except me. I remained in the clearing with multiple paths of rejection. I longed for purpose. I attacked new and old paths doing my best to make them work for me. Alas, even the ones where I could make it in the farthest left me with a sense of hopelessness deep in my soul.
Perhaps I was ultimately useless and worthless, cursed and wounded beyond recovery. After all, I obviously couldn’t contribute or help if I couldn’t stay on a path.
Years after I entered the clearing of paths not meant for me, I sat in the clearing, dejected as always and despairing of ever finding my way out of the clearing of paths, when I felt a presence. I turned in a circle and met with the Man of Light. His skin glowed brightly, muting His features. As I studied Him, I felt no fear, for I knew Him as surely as I knew myself. This was the One Who Had Gone Before. This was the Ancient of Days, El Elyon.
He looked at me with such compassion my knees wobbled and I felt a couple of tears trail down my cheeks. He knows me, I thought. He understands my difficulties and struggles in this place of paths not meant for me.
He approached and I hung my head, ashamed of my ongoing failures in this place. I felt stupid for not being able to find the path meant for me to travel.
He wiped the tears now dribbling down my chin and raised my face until our eyes met. “Come,” He said, “your path is now ready for you.”
I picked up the machete. He held His hand out for it and as I placed the handle in His hand, relief flooded me. I’m not alone anymore.
We crossed the clearing to the side opposite the mirror where before I’d only met with dense, overgrown, resistant and stubborn flora. He swiped some ivy out of the way and I fell to my knees in shock for in front of me was a new path which soon left the wood altogether and entered into fields of wildflowers. The path eventually meandered toward a tower in the far distance.
I stepped onto the path, surprised and relieved at a new feeling of rightness. Hope surged through me, for I knew my purpose lay on this path. The Ancient of Days stepped on the path and I suddenly realized all along what my biggest problem had been. I had been measuring my worth by how far along a path of my own choosing I could make it instead of seeking Him to find my worth and asking Him to reveal my path.
The path before me is long, I’m probably going to run into danger, delay, resistance and mishaps, but I am no longer wandering alone. I’m moving forward, hopeful, purposeful and worthy in His eyes. I am doing what I have longed to do. And these words set to page are a step down my right path.