Cut through the forest and tall grass, your path meanders its way along with no end in sight. Maybe it’s around the next bend or over the next rise, or perhaps at the horizon, where the sun goes to sleep. Birds whisper magically upon your ears as the forest canopy funnels the intoxicating smells of wild flowers, berries, and fruit trees. The air is light with a dreamy taste of familiar surroundings. The path is well used. Nothing changes. Between the rabbits playing tag with the squirrels and the birds nearly landing on your shoulder for a free ride, it is near perfect. So perfect that at any time you expect to see a fawn; speckled innocence upon a golden brown coat, emerge from parted liquid – standing upon an island of emerald-green grass. Yet, all is not perfect. It might look of perfection to some, yet through your eyes, it is endless. Looking backwards there is nothing to see that you haven’t seen…and looking forward is to see what you have already anticipated. It becomes overwhelming at the thought of nothing at the end of this long, monotonous, path. Yet many people travel this path. Why?
They are content with the path they have chosen. So many people succumb to their path that they have let it become the only one they know. It is an easy opportunity for the basics of living. They shelter their dreams from ever escaping this path, out of fear and insecurity. Traveling beyond the only path they’ve known takes an incredible amount of determination and power to overcome fears they’d never have thought to experience. Not fears of the dark or scary monsters or that snake that might slither across their toes…but the deepest fear.
The fear of making a decision about a life that may have them wander off their path and onto a trail.
Walking along the path, your attention moves away from the fluffy white clouds tacked against a blue canvas, to figuring out ways to get off this path…perhaps finding another. How can you leave a path that you’ve known and sought comfort from your whole life in the hopes of finding a different one? If there’s another path, how will you know it’s the right one? How will you know its better? What if its worse? If you get to another path, would you be able to leave the one you’re on and at the very least come back to the one you left?
As you walk along…riddled with fear and doubt you begin to notice small breaks in the grass and tree lines. You’ve never noticed them before, yet they look like they’ve been there for as long as the path has been…they are dark and mysterious.
Stopping, you look closer at one of them. You notice the ground is worn slightly and the grass and saplings are pushed aside and bent as if someone had walked through before. Looking into the darkness you notice footsteps. You suddenly realize what it is you’re looking at. Escape routes. Places along the path where people have decided to get away for one reason or another. These places…are trails.
Trails are different than pathways. Trails serve a distinct purpose. Each one goes somewhere special, for something specific, and for no other reason. Not many people use them. Trails usually don’t get used again by the same person. Some trails are made by only one person…some trails are made by several people…well worn, yet nothing as overwhelming and unfulfilled as your pathway has become. Trails are scary in that once they are used, no one ever knows what happened to the person who used it…unless they backtracked because they didn’t like what they saw or felt.
The safest way to explore a trail is to do it with someone you trust enough and can count on to be there no matter where the trail might lead…and to help you back if you’re not happy. You’ve walked your pathway long enough to know whom you can trust to keep you safe. Perhaps you’ll discover a trail that leads to college…or a new restaurant…or skydiving…or fishing…or the love of your life. It could lead to anything, but you won’t know if you don’t take any of them.
Sometimes the trail will lead to an entirely different pathway. Similar to the one you left, yet much different in appearance and feel. Apprehension sets in as you realize you won’t know anyone on this new path, except the person who might have walked with you on the trail. Now, you can either trust that person to support you and guide you in becoming familiar with the new path, or you can trust him to get you back to the path you just left. Either way, you have to trust the person you walk the trail with, or you’ll never leave your path.
Remember that the man you walk the trail with, is depending on you for the same.
Trails are misleading. Because so little is known about them, you have to take them at your own risk, or walk with someone you trust. Someone who knows why you want to leave the only path you’ve ever known. You might find that you feel you can trust someone to walk a trail with you…only to find out this trail leads to a place of deceit and selfishness. Finding your way back to your path is relatively easy, as these selfish trails are short and to the point. There is really nothing to be gained by taking another trail with the same person that deceived you with the first one. It puts you back on your path where you left off, or worse yet, you find yourself walking along the same stretch of path that you have already walked for some time, having to rebuild your courage and confidence to try again.
The trails that you see may not always be exits or escape routes. Some of them are made from people walking along other paths, seeking a new path. You may find yourself walking along your path one day and a total stranger steps out of the grass…grazing the tops of the tall grass with his fingertips. He is just as scared to walk on this trail, as you are to walk on another. You say hi to each other, and after a short time, a connection is made. It is a light one to start with, but you find yourself walking and sharing your path with him…perhaps learning of his path and the reasons he left. As you walk along this trail you develop a trust in each other. Eventually there becomes enough trust between you that you both talk of considering another trail…this time together rather than each of you alone. Do you discover a new trail with this person or do you hold onto what you know and change nothing? There is always a way back to your path, as there is for him.
A pathway is the life you lead…a trail is a decision you make along that path. Some decisions propel you forward, just as a short cut might, and others send you back. It is a journey and I am there with you no matter which trail you choose.