“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you (Psalm 51:10-12).”
There is a trail that runs between my town and the other major city in my area that I have been wanting to hike. As the weather this week is unseasonably cool and overcast, I thought that today would be as good a time as any.
I was even more convinced I needed to go on this walk last night. I read of a man who felt very cold in his spirit and walked back and forth for three hours dealing with it.
I did not have a very good day yesterday. It didn’t get any better this morning.
I had not been out of bed long when our power went out. I was cranky and irritable, and it spilled out in how I treated my family. Come hell or high water, I knew I needed to get out on that trail and look under the hood.
The Hucklberry Trail begins at a shopping mall and ends six miles later at the public library in my town. It meanders along railroad tracks, rural roads and streams.
The trail runs through a forest. As the hiker gets closer to my town, it runs by cornfields and pasture land. The vista becomes quite wide and the Blue Ridge Mountains come into view.
Eventually, the trail curves and goes under the bypass and onto the campus of the local university. It continues by the football stadium, which houses the local idol worshipped here on Saturday afternoons. I am only half joking : ).
As I began my walk, I begin to search my spirit for muck. I asked God to reveal it.
I have been particularly frustrated by my current unemployment. I can’t seem to find a job good enough to fit my skill set and support my family.
I recently turned down a job offer in Asia and other opportunities elsewere in the States because I felt like God had led me to return from my overseas post and stay put where my family lives.
I determined before I left this overseas assignment that I am needed at home, and my own walk with Him would benefit from the fellowship at my church. The Lord seemed to back this up in speaking to me from the Scriptures.
In returning home, I believed I would best be “seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)”. The “bargain” with God (if you will) is that He would meet our financial needs. Yesterday I was wondering down deep in my heart where God’s end of this deal was.
I told my wife this morning that I felt like the Lord was sqaushing me. Indeed, I had read a verse earlier in the week which pretty much told me that. He is mashing me like a piece of clay these days (Isaiah 45:9).
I am hopeful that God is actually answering my prayers in this process. While my situation is not easy, I am trusting that perhaps He is remaking me for new purposes that will glorify Him.
There is Scriptural precedent for God doing this. He once remade the whole nation of Israel. He led Jeremiah down to a potter’s house to give him the object lesson:
The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said,“Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over. Then the Lord gave me this message: “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand. (Jeremiah 18:1-6).
Hiking down the Huckleberry Trail, I was taken by scenery that reminded me of the legacy from which I came. The railroad track reminded me that my father once earned his living working on trains.
The small park which memorializes the coal mine that used to be there also made me look at my bloodlines. My grandfather was a coal miner a a good part of his life.
Thus, God affirmed the goodness of work to me by noting how my grandfather and father worked to provide for their loved ones. A good man leaves behind a legacy to his kids of industrious labor. My patriarchs surely did that for me.
The Scriputes also illustrate through Jesus’s Jewish ancestors what it means to give our children a legacy. Abraham and Rahab left behind a godly heritage for the Son of Man. They were models of faith combined with action (James 2:21-25).
The trail not only gave me teaching from my heritage. It also put into my mind that there are dangers out there which can destroy me.
A man walked by with a dog. From afar, it seemed to be loose and perhaps menacing. Then, as man and pet came closer, I noticed the leash.
God brought to mind that Satan is out there ready to devour me. However, God will rein him in if I do what He tells me to do, which is to resist that beast (James 4:7).
However, the Lord had more than the externala for me out there this morning. He got down to business by having me look at my own heart. One mess in there is my battle to be bold in sharing the gospel.
I saw a man about a hundred yardd ahead of me. I thought I should try to catch up to him and share about Jesus, but it was inconvenient. I didn’t want to be bothered.
In addition, I wondered why I was motivated to share with this man out of guilt. Where was the joy of knowing Christ that made me overflow with excitement at the prospect of telling this man about Him. “Oh, wretched man that I am”, was the message in my soul at that point.
The trail was also prone to temptations. A scantily clad woman jogged by. I thankfully only glanced her way, but I was reminded of a dependency that I know I have which can wreck my soul if I let it: lust.
I was aggravated at that woman. “Why, doesn’t that woman know that she tempts me and subjects herself to predators on lonely stretches like this!”
I also was teed off by the bikers who kept coming by from behind and warning me of their presence. (“On your left!).
I jump out of my skin when that happens and have had a pet peeve toward bikers all summer. I was humbled when I saw that along the way a billboard revealing the park rules which REQUIRE bikers to warn pedestrians as they come upon them.
Thus, the Lord gave me a new item in my messy heart to deal with out on the path: a critical spirit. As with my other known sins, I confessed them and obtained God’s forgiveness and cleansing (I John 1:9).
Yes, the walk today was a “flush and fill” operation. I am hoping that a lot of the trash heap in my life was swept away by bringing it before God to clean up.
I’m also desirous that the garbage in my heart was replaced with the blessed Holy Spirit. I surely need His presence and leading in the days ahead.