One of my favourite verses of scripture occurs in the Gospel of Mark. It occurs at the start of what is known as the Feeding of the 5000. The disciples have just returned from a time of ministry and are eager to tell Jesus all that they had done and taught. Yet, as the Scriptures report, such a discussion was unable to occur due to the large crowds that were surrounding Jesus. At this point Jesus turns to the disciples and says “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Oh how we need to hear this sometimes!
Last week I had some time off. It was the last bit of my vacation leave, so I gleefully spent 10 days at home, while my wife was at work and my son was at camp. I napped; I watched movies; I read; I enjoyed some great cups of coffee in a variety of different coffee shops; yet the highlight of this time for me was probably a hike that I did around Nose Hill Park.
Nose Hill Park is a municipal park in the north west of Calgary. It is one of the largest municipal parks in Canada, and boasts a variety of hiking paths, lush vegetation and the occasional sighting of animal wild-life. Its Wikipedia page states that Nose Hill Park is “commonly regarded as a retreat from city life.”
My desire to go for this hike was not out of a desire to retreat from anything. Much of the vacation-week at this point was alone and/or in silence, so I didn’t feel as if I needed to retreat from the noises and sights of the city. Nor was my intention to go for a ‘prayer-walk’. Rather, my intention to hike around the park was simply to re-enact, in my own life, that call of Jesus to go with him to a quiet place for some rest. The best way I can put this is to simply say that I wanted to walk the park, but walk it with Jesus.
Think of it like this: Maybe you have had the experience of going for a walk, a hike, a fishing trip, or any other activity with a loved one. In these instances there is no demand to fill up the time with any type of meaningful chatter, or even any chatter at all. Just as I am able to go for a walk with my wife and enjoy the blessing of her presence, so I wanted to walk with Jesus in a manner where I was simply allowed to enjoy his presence with me.
Having packed a small lunch, a water bottle, and my Bible, I began my walk along one of the main gravel pathways, eventually discarding it for one of the marked, unpaved, trails through the grass. It was the type of trail where you feels as if you are walking in the divots made by a giant truck or large wagon. The gravel path had a lot of traffic – this one, not so much. While I began my hike being surrounded by dog-walkers, cyclists, runners, and families, it wasn’t long before I was deep in the field with no one in my line of vision. For most of my hike, it was like I had the park to myself.
I hiked for probably close to 90 minutes, moving at my own snail-like pace. I can’t say that there was anything earth shattering that occurred. It was simply a pleasant time. It was a restful time.
Eventually I came to a bench, where I decided that I would sit and have a rest. I sat there for some time, not really wanting to interrupt the space that I was in with a possibly forced time of prayer or Bible-reading. Yet I did take out my Bible, and I did say a little prayer. It went something like this:
Jesus, I am enjoying this walk, and I don’t want to interrupt it. But if there is something you have for me, please guide my eyes to the passage you want me to reflect on. If not, please confirm that I can sit and be comfortable in your presence. Amen.
I turned to the Bible and ended up at Psalm 65. If you are like me, Psalm 65 just is not one of the Psalms we take time to memorize. Psalms like Psalm 23, 121, 84, 100, 133, 150, and various others -sure, these are Psalms proved to be conducive to reflection. We can rattle off the Lord is my shepherd, or Better is one day in your courts than one thousand elsewhere, or Let everything that has breath Praise the Lord, without out hesitation. But Psalm 65? What on earth does Psalm 65 say?
I won’t, here, go through the entire Psalm, however I will say that the Psalm seemed directly applicable to my setting. The end of the Psalm speaks of the overflowing pastures, of meadows and valleys joining together in songs of Joy. Yet it was verse 11 that fully struck me.
“You crown the year with bounty, your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.”
Wagon tracks were the roadways of the biblical world. They established pathways through fields and mountains and allowed people to move from one place to another. They also served as a gentle reminder that someone had been there before you to pave the way.
Pathways can be easy or hard. They can be uphill or down; clean or full of mud. And some wagon-tracks (like some I walked on that day) threaten to throw us off balance. Yet the wagon tracks of God, whatever the type, are evidence of his movement in the fields of our lives. They disclose his presence in wonder and power. They overflow with abundance because they are testimonies in our lives where God has reached down – and we can never enter those places and leave unchanged. They are for us places of where we receive strength, healing, love and challenge. Mostly, we receive grace.
As we live out our lives of faith, we are not called to carve our own path. We are not called to set the direction, or to blaze the trail. Rather, we follow the pathway that Christ sets for us – knowing that as we step in his tracks, there will be for us heavenly resources far beyond our own comprehension. The wagon tracks of God are the places where we are encouraged and invited to walk with Jesus in our lives. It is a place of promise, provision, and power.
May you be encouraged to walk the wagon-tracks that Jesus has called you to; and have the blessing of seeing his presence guide you as you journey.