My wife and I recently found ourselves walking a labyrinth as part of a standing meditation practice. It was my first time doing so, and I was immediately reminded that in a labyrinth there are many switchbacks and you you can feel like you’re returning to where you just came from at any given time, but doing so is necessary in order to proceed forward. If you stay on the path and keep moving where the path leads, even if it leads you back to where you just were, you will eventually arrive at the point you’re aspiring to reach. The key is to trust and remain on the path regardless of how it may feel in the moment.
The Gospel of Matthew quotes Isaiah 40:3 when referencing John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, stating, “Make his path straight.” He didn’t ask for the path to be easy, he asked for it to be straight. He didn’t ask for it to be prosperous, he asked for it to be straight. “Straight” is the shortest distance between two points, which is not always the easiest path between those same two points, but requesting a strait path is akin to requesting one to “stay on the path.”
What is God doing with your path? Is He taking you back, in order to move you forward? Are obstacles in your path in order to provide you the opportunity to catapult forward?
It is not uncommon for me to feel distant from God and feel that I have failed to reach a level of communication with Him that’s worthy of a man that calls himself a follower of Christ. I’ll even begin to doubt my salvation and my standing, as if I haven’t achieved enough for Him to be worthy of my salvation. I can feel lost in the labyrinth of life. It is in these times I know I must turn to scripture and recenter myself and remember the path that leads to a successful navigation of the labyrinth of life.
Paul reminds us in Philippians 3 that it is a process of continual seeking that results in our resurrection in Christ when he writes:
“I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Phil. 3:8b-11.
Paul goes on to provide some peace of mind for those of us who are feeling less than successful in our walk, saying:
“Not that I have already attained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Phil. 3:12
This walk in Christ is not a destination of holiness that allows us to stop striving to improve. It is a practice of continual effort to take hold of the prize, that is the salvation of faith in Jesus, but also accepting the peace that comes in knowing our soul is secure through faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God. Paul says:
“Brothers I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and striving toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:13–14.
Our contemporary culture teaches us that going backward is failure. That the path must always move forward. Newer, bigger, better, and more of it is evidence of success. Yet the path of Christ is marked not by always doing something newer and better and obtaining more, but is marked by the purpose for which God has called us all heavenward through Christ.
I once had a law professor make the comment, “In 100 years we’re all going to be dead lawyers anyway.” That statement stuck with me more than any case I read because I think it speaks to the purpose of our lives. We are here for a short time. The path may twist and turn and there may be temptation to get off the path to take a shortcut, but in the end, if we remain true to the path we will win the prize. If we remain true to the path we will win in life.