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Enjoying the Road Less Traveled
By Christopher Heffron

Q U I C K S C A N

Psalm 25:4-5
Guided by Faith
On the Road Again
Understanding Psalm 25

Make known to me your ways, LORD;
Teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.

It’s no secret in the Heffron family that I was born with an appalling lack of direction—a gene that I, with all due respect, inherited from my mother. Quite the opposite, my father and sister have an uncanny sense of where they are headed: They could find a needle in a haystack. It would be a miracle if Mom and I could find the haystack.

Maps, for me, are like antiquated formulas. Driving directions, if not broken down into the simplest forms, are like riddles. Being lost, in the literal sense, has become a sort of pastime for me. Often I find myself, to quote the great Robert Frost, taking “the road less traveled,” but it’s almost always by accident.

When it hits me that I am hopelessly lost, on the road or in my life, I am reminded of a passage in the psalms that has taught me to abandon my fears and sometimes enjoy not knowing where I am going. Psalm 25 gives me a reason to celebrate being a little off-course.

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Guided by Faith

It wasn’t always easy to appreciate the pleasure of being lost. Psalm 25 in many ways reminds me of when at the age of five I wandered from my father in a department store. Panicked and terrified, I was, in a cruel instant, alone—and scared.

Finding my dad a few minutes later was a heaven-sent relief, but it was in being lost that I really learned something. That’s why I like Psalm 25. It isn’t about finding my way. It’s about not knowing where I’m going. It’s about letting go and allowing my faith to guide me.

This isn’t always easy. I rely heavily on what my eyes can show me. Many times I feel five years old again—panicked and out of sorts.

I have often wandered from God in life’s great big department store, looking for toys or candy. Psalm 25, with the phrase “teach me your paths,” reminds me that I still have a ways to go in the journey.

“Guide me in your truth and teach me” shows that an eagerness to learn the path is normal and perhaps even encouraged, but that I will be no wiser for knowing what lies ahead. God, ever watchful, will not mislead me. Rarely do I know where I’m going in this life and that’s O.K. Ignorance has never been this blissful.

I’ve always loved a good mystery. There’s a sense of adventure in not always knowing what’s in store for me. Life didn’t provide a book of instructions or a handy manual to carry in my pocket. I’ll slip. I’ll fail. And I will begin again with hopeful eyes watching the skies. God will surely be looking back at me.

I will travel a great many roads in this beautiful but convoluted life. Without a dependable sense of direction, I know it’s a given that I will be navigating strange towns and unfamiliar streets, poring over maps that will never make much sense to me. I won’t have a clue where I am.

Sooner rather than later, I’ll be driving in my car and realize that I am, once again, lost. With a willing heart and a calm mind, all I can say is, “God, I hope so.”

Next: Psalm 27:4

 

Psalm 25, an alphabetic acrostic (each verse beginning with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet), falls into three parts. Verses 1-7 and 15-21 are basically “I and Thou” between the psalmist and God. Verses 8-14 are mostly reflections on God and God’s teaching. Two themes are combined: first, a recognition of sinfulness and of being under attack (both described vaguely), and second, a prayer for God’s guidance (“teach me your paths”).

The psalmist’s attitude can be summed up: Wait, hope, trust in the Lord and be humbly open to being instructed in God’s ways.

For my overview of the entire Book of Psalms, read "The Book of Psalms: Prayers for Everyday Living". —Michael Guinan, O.F.M.

 

Christopher Heffron is an assistant editor and poetry editor of this publication. In 1997, he graduated with dual majors in English and communication arts from the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio.


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