It was a sunny, warm, Easter Sunday in southern Vermont and adventure was calling our name. There was no better time to check out a trail we’d never hiked before!
After Googling and mapping our route, we set off from Little Michigan Road and headed up the hill with enthusiasm – what a grand thing to be playing in snow piles while wearing t-shirts!
About an hour in, though, with the enthusiasm level quickly fading, it was clear our family was not up for the challenge of completing the intended loop. The increase in whining signaled the alarm to get back to the car pronto, but the usual dilemma was raised. You see, we Desilets have this thing – we never go back the way we came. I mean, what’s the point of seeing everything you just saw again?
“The creek is in that direction,” Tim suggested, “so if we bushwhack down this hill we’ll shortcut to the other end of the loop.” Concerned, I pulled out my phone to check the accuracy of this claim. (What would we do without Google Maps?) “Yep,” I replied, “as long as we head in that direction, we should be good.”
It’s important to note here that Vermont has a fifth season. It’s called “mud season” and it falls somewhere between winter and spring. As all that mountain snow melts, the water level in creeks and rivers rises and unpaved roads and paths can become impassable.
And what Google Maps could not show us was that between us and our destination was a giant mud-season generated swamp!
After a miserably failed it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time attempt to cross this swamp, our even more whiny (and now cold and wet) crew wound through several groves of dense pine trees (in our t-shirts – Ouch!), and finally arrived at the other side.
Having a relationship with Jesus seems like it should be a well-marked path. Thousands – even millions – of people have done this before you, leaving their example. You look at the lives of believers you know and they seem to make it look easy – as if you should just be able to point your GPS in God’s direction, take a few steps and you’ll be there!
But like the Vermont woods, a relationship with Jesus is not drawn on two-dimensional map. There are no predictable, paved paths and everyone’s journey looks at least a little bit different. Unexpected twists and turns, miles of bushwhacking, and, of course, the occasional swamp can leave us wondering where we’re “at” and what may lie ahead.
In John 1:45-46, after being ‘found’ by Jesus (v. 43):
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
Nathanael didn’t know Jesus (and obviously had some preconceived notions about Him), but Jesus did know Nathanael:
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” (v. 47-49)
Step inside this story for a moment and picture yourself in a crowded place. At some point, you’re introduced to this guy and he’s like “Oh yeah! I saw you a little while ago over by that tree!” Would you be impressed? Not really. You might think he had a some memory skills, but you certainly wouldn’t call him God in human flesh.
But when Nathanael heard Jesus say “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree,” he reacted by declaring, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” And that’s because Jesus didn’t just “see” Nathanael, He saw Nathanael. He saw whatever was going on in Nathanael’s head and heart at that moment.
Something significant was happening in Nathanael’s life under that fig tree. Maybe he was desperate and crying out to God for help. Maybe he was doubting. Maybe he was sinning. Whatever it was, it was something only God could know and Jesus in His fully-God self knew it, too.
No matter where Nathanael was “at,” Jesus knew his location. He knew exactly where Nathanael was at in his faith, his circumstances, his heart, and his mind. He knew what Nathanael had been through to get to that point – and He knew all that lay on the path ahead of him.
No matter where you’re “at,” Jesus knows your location. He knows everything you believe (or aren’t sure you believe), every doubt, every fear, every joy, every stress, every circumstance and how it’s affecting you. He sees you under your fig tree and He’s reaching out His hand to say, “Get up! Follow Me!”
A few weeks after Spring Break, our family was on another hike (this time on our home turf in PA) when we, yet again, decided to take another path that we thought would be a ‘better’ way back to our car. It wasn’t, of course, and after some backtracking and random-trail-guessing, we found the trail we were looking for – or so we hoped.
Concerned again, I referred to my handy dandy Google Maps app to make sure we were at least headed in the right direction. I was surprised to find that according to the map, we were lost in the middle of the forest!
But where we were standing was clearly a path!
Your GPS on your own life may not be as accurate as you think. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Our own hearts have the ability to deceive us on the condition of our own hearts! We are stuck in a two-dimensional map – while the world around us feeds us regular, just as off base, information on our location.
Only God knows where you’re “at”. He’s the only one who can view all the dimensions and pinpoint your exact location. You may think you’re miles from home, but maybe that fig tree you’re under is right where He is going to do a mighty work in your life. Or maybe you think you’re on the perfect path, but that pile of snow you’re standing on is about to turn into a foot-deep puddle of mud.
The only way to know is to ask the One who does know to “Search me, God, and know my heart”. (Psalm 139:23) If you’re like me, you spend enough time evaluating your soul, but not enough time asking God what He has to say about it. He knows where you’re at, so be still and listen!