Trail Markers

Yesterday was our last day of hiking here in the Grand Marais area of northern Minnesota. (I’ll shortly start packing for our return trip to the Twin Cities.) We hiked Pincushion Mountain and then to the Barrier Falls Overlook of Devil Track River to see the deepest gorge in Minnesota.

As is often the case when one is hiking, sometimes the trail ahead was quite clear. There was no question what direction we should be heading. However there were some points where it was not clear from the terrain where the trail was. Sometimes I’d find myself standing in a spot where nothing looked very trail-like. Other times I’d reach a point and it looked like a path in any one of three directions could be the trail I was supposed to be on.

At those moments, I was grateful when I saw a trail marker somewhere out in front of me. The marker could be a slash of paint on a rock or a tree. Or sometimes it was a small tag on a tree that said “Superior Nature Trial.” Whatever form the marker took, it was a welcome sign of the direction we should be heading. Such signs were particularly welcome on a hike like yesterday’s, which had a lot of uphill and downhill portions; the last thing one wants to do is hike up several hundred feet and then have to retrace one’s steps because it wasn’t the trail.

Our lives are lot like that. Sometimes we are crystal clear that we are on the right path. We’ve discerned our course with God and we have absolute confidence that we are where we are supposed to be and hearing in the direction God and we have determined is best.

Alas, other times things are a lot more opaque. We have a general sense of where we ought to be but things somehow seem a bit misty. (And sometimes “misty” doesn’t even begin to describe our uncertainty.) We look up and wonder whether we are where we are meant to be, whether we are moving in the direction that accords with God’s plans.

Fortunately, if we open our eyes wide enough, God leaves trail markers for us. We get signs that we are on the right path or that we need to shift directions. Like the trail markers on a hike, the signs don’t always take the same form and they may not be where we expect them to appear. But one thing is sure – the signs are there. Just as the park service ensures that there are trail markers to guide our path through various trails, God does not leave us without markers to guide our way. We just need to keep our eyes open for them.