Monday, November 4, 2013

Stumbling on a Stumbling Stone

This past Saturday, I hiked with my daughter (Amy), her dog (Rocky), Psycho Dog, Normal Dog, and a backpack. Usually, I can handle both dogs, but today was different. The trail was narrow, and covered with leaves. Within minutes into the hike, Amy tripped on a stump which extended a good 6-8 inches above the ground--right in the middle of the trail. I heard her shoe hit the stump and watched her stumble. I chuckled, then five seconds later, I did the same, except that I fell forward. I can only imagine how funny I looked sprawled out on the ground still holding the leashes of two dogs and a backpack on my back-probably like some middle-aged mutant overweight turtle. It was a soft fall. Nothing hurt, nothing broken. We laughed and continued. Five minutes later, I twisted my ankle-on nothing. I was just walking and my ankle gave out. That hurt. But I pushed on past the pain. I finished the hike-it was probably two miles. We sat down to have our lunch and the bees started coming. We quickly ate and packed up, and as Amy was getting into her car, a bee stung her on her chin. It was a wonderful mother-daughter disaster day in the park!

After I twisted my ankle, I blurted out, "What's WRONG with me today?!" Sometimes, on our path with God, we "twist our ankles" on nothing...we just get caught up in ourselves, in our lives, in allowing ourselves to become hurt or offended--and we get twisted around. We lose sight of Jesus, our Guide. We can say, "Oh, this is too hard; I can't go on," and turn around or we can keep going, pushing past the pain, dealing with the next issues that may come our way. Maybe even getting stung once or twice before we're done. Because, you see, if I'd turned around, I would have missed out on valuable time with my daughter and a beautiful hike. If we quit, we will never know what we missed.

We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). This verse is actually a lead in to "taming the tongue" (oh please no!). Yes, we all say stupid things and sometimes I wish I had an actual bridle on my tongue; however, we all stumble in many ways besides in what we say. We all stumble in our weaknesses and sometimes that stumbling leads to a fall into sin. Sometimes, like Amy, we catch ourselves and keep going, not turning back to even see what it was that caused us to stumble. Or, turning back for a moment, and upon seeing the stump in the path, laughing and continuing on. Other times, like me, we fall. 

It's important for us to remember that when we do fall, Jesus is with us on the trail. He stops and helps us up. He doesn't blame the stumbling block; nor does he blame us. He simply extends his hand, helps us up and says, "Are you okay?"  It's also important to remember that once we have repented of that sin, we need to move on; don't look back at the stumbling block and don't hold onto shame or blame. If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24). If we follow Him, He will lead [us] beside streams of water on a level path where [we] will not stumble (Jer 31:9).

Taking this one step further...when others stumble or fall, can we "be Jesus" instead of judging them in their weakness or sin (do not judge or you will be judged-Matthew 7:1)? Can we learn how to simply come alongside them, extend our hand, and ask, "Are you okay?" Let's not become a stumbling block to further someone else's stumbling! Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way (2 Cor 6:3). 

Finally, my advice:  When you go hiking, take only one dog and wear hiking boots, not shoes. They'll help support your ankles. And by all means...laugh!!!

Blessings Along the Path,

Song of the Day
What If I Stumble? (DC Talk)

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