I ran a brand-new route yesterday morning – to the lake and back instead of to the bridges and back. I’d like to tell you I made a Robert Frostian decision and intentionally chose the path less-traveled, but in reality, the choice to run a new route wasn’t a choice at all. My regular route, the one I’ve run three or four days a week for the last fourteen years, is closed for construction for the next several months. My choice was no run or new route. I begrudgingly chose the latter.
My new route is much less populated, but even the few people I did pass along the way didn’t wave or shout out a chipper greeting like the regulars I used to see on my old path. I missed the man who always waves hello, palm held out like a high-five. I missed the cackling red belly woodpecker perched in the hackberry tree; the cool dampness and the smell of rain beneath the concrete bridges; the rabbits munching clover.
The new path seemed longer, uglier, less friendly. It was definitely hillier. There was also more traffic, trash and city noise, fewer rabbits, less quiet. I didn’t like it; everything about it felt wrong. I’d prefer my old path, thank you very much.
These last eight months I’ve written on and off about my journey through the wilderness, as I’ve wrestled with and wondered about where God might be leading me next. The good news is that I am beginning to see a clearing ahead, an opening, a way through the tangle of branches and brush. The bad news is that the path that’s been revealed to me is an unfamilar one. It’s not the path I imagined for myself, and it’s probably not the one I would have chosen, had all things worked out exactly as I had planned and envisioned.
This new path I’m on is a lot like that new running route I ran yesterday. The terrain feels unfamiliar under my feet – bumpier, uneven, unpredictable. Hills loom tall and formidable ahead of me on the horizon. I miss what I know, the landmarks and milestones that remind me that I am moving in the right direction. I’m less sure of myself, fearful of what will be revealed around the next corner. I find myself wishing for the old path, the one that’s comfortable and well-traveled.
Yesterday, at the midway point in my run, I rested for a few seconds at the top of a hill. Leaning with my hands on my knees, breathing hard, a stitch sharp in my side, I watched a bird hop amid the tall grass, yellow breast bright like a blooming dandelion. His sweet trill chimed through the damp breeze, answered by another farther off. It was a Meadowlark, one of my favorites, a bird I never saw, not even once, in the fourteen years I ran the other route.
I watched the Meadowlark hunt for insects for a few seconds while I caught my breath. And then I turned and ran downhill, toward home, with the wind at my back.