There’s a running joke in our family.
In fact, as our family embarked on a hike yesterday, we laughed at it again.
It’s to keep Mom (that’s me) away from maps and sharp objects.
Maps have never been my friend – especially road maps. I just can’t seem to figure them out fast enough – especially when we’re traveling to a new destination.
Well, just take a quick survey of my hands and fingers and you’ll find scar remnants due to a number of accidental inflictions over the years; some that required stitches. Those scars are quite visible actually.
As we began our 5 km hike yesterday morning, everyone chuckled once again about my map challenges. For as I surveyed the map, it really made little sense to me as we looked for its trail markers. I surrendered the map to my husband. Maybe he could make sense of it – well, of course he could – right?
Yet, as we ascended the hilly, rocky terrain, we did our level best to look for the map markers.
Unfortunately, the markers we located appeared to be for the other trails – some of which were overnight trails. We were not prepared to do that – especially on this particularly hot day. Another trail was a short 3 km trail. We wanted the 5 km trail. It promised to lead us to some caves embedded along the Magliesburg mountainside. John and I knew the boys would love to explore the caves – especially in the heat of this particular day!
Yes, it was hot.
We began our hike in the Magliesburg at a little before 9 am and already the temperatures were climbing near 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Sweat streamed down our forehead and backs as we climbed – looking and looking for the 5 km markers.
As we continued forward, the more we were convinced that we had made some kind of error. Nowhere could we locate the 5 km markers – instead we continued to find other trail markers. It didn’t make sense.
We climbed and we climbed and we climbed. We stopped, retraced our steps, tried an alternate route, and still we could not locate our 5 km trail markers. We believed we were in the correct area, but nothing around us affirmed that thinking.
Caleb finally cried ‘uncle.’ He wasn’t having any fun. It was apparent we didn’t know where we were and the map we had was of no help. Caleb wanted to quit.
We had been hiking for over two hours. The correct trail eluded us – or so we thought. And we hadn’t discovered the caves – which would have offered a cool respite. We were hot, tired, and hungry and honestly, a bit discouraged. Actually, Caleb was very discouraged.
Thus, we made the decision to call it a day. John and I had desired to create a fun, holiday memory with our kids. Although it was a pleasure to discover a new place and explore it, we had a specific target in mind – locate the caves for our kids – and we had failed.
What had we done wrong?
After we descended from our long hike, John sought answers. When he asked for assistance from the establishment’s staff, we discovered that we had been on the correct trail all along!
How could that be?
When John showed the map to the staff, they realized that the map been printed incorrectly.
Our map did not show that the 5 km trail had not just one name, but two names!
The name we could see on the map was not the name on the trail markers. Thus, the name we were looking for on the trail was not there. The other trail name and its markers were!
We had insufficient information.
We were on the correct trail all along – all of our searching, stopping, retracing, reflecting, and hunting had been accurate! Yet, without knowing that we had located the legitimate trail markers, we believed we were on the wrong trail, but moving in the right direction.
How crazy-making is that?
Yet, how often does such a thing happen in life?
As I reflect upon it, there have been times in my life when I was believing I was on the correct course, making the right decisions, but didn’t necessarily have all of the affirmation, trail markers, or even support to keep going ahead. Sometimes, I would have to stop and turn back, as our family did on our hike. Other times, I would resolve to keep going forward – believing it to be the correct thing to do. It wouldn’t be until later – whether hours, days or months – that the affirmations would come and I would know that I was or was not moving in the right direction.
It’s interesting to me that I am contemplating such a thing today – on Christmas Eve.
There is a familiar story told this time of year:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. New International Version, Luke 2: 9-18
The shepherds were given some supernatural signposts to point their way to the Christ child, weren’t they?
The glory of the Lord shown upon them.
A host of angels appeared.
An angel spoke words of succor, hope, and direction to the terrified men.
Although they would not be awarded a map, they were given a Sign.
A baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger
When the shepherds found the Christ Child, He was enough to instill in them a new hope and life purpose:
They spread the word concerning the Messiah!
Their paths had led them to the greatest, life affirming gift of all – Emmanuel, The Lord has Come!
So, yes, we failed to find a set of caves in the Magliesburg yesterday even though we had been on the right path.
We seek something far greater – just like the Shepherds of long ago – we celebrate and are gifted with the Sign – a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger – Emmanuel, our God with us. He is the One who guides our steps and points the way to living life on earth and towards the Kingdom of God. He is the giver of peace, love and joy!
Yes, he is the ultimate Sign we need on this earth!
Merry Christmas, Everyone!
I pray you have a glorious time celebrating with your family and friends as you embrace Emmanuel, our God with us!