One of our favorite things to do in summer and fall is go camping on the Mohican River. Since Monday is my day off, we normally leave Sunday after church and are arriving as the weekend campers are leaving. We try to quickly get established in our campsite and then set up our chairs to watch some of the best entertainment around: the weekend canoer. The Mohican is one of the top canoeing rivers in the state which means anyone from expert to novice can have a fun adventure paddling down the river.
Every time we go, the experience is a little different. This is not just because there are different people canoeing but because the river changes depending on the amount of rain in the area. On one of our most recent visits, the river was lower than usual which made for more spots to get hung up. It was funny to watch as canoeists paddled along—only to get out of their canoes with the water just above their ankles.
There was a place not far from our campsite where you could go either way around a sandbar. It appeared much shorter one way, but if you took the longer way around, the water was deeper and your trip much smoother with a lot less risk of getting hung up in the shallows.
The majority of the people would take the shorter route and get hung up in obstacles they couldn’t see from a distance. Someone would have to get out of the canoe and push them off the gravel before they could get going again. Those who chose the longer path sailed along and never had to push their way out of trouble.
The analogy of life in this scene is obvious. How often do we take a shortcut thinking it will get us somewhere faster and wind up spending more time cleaning up the trouble? If we had only taken the time to consider what lay ahead, we would have found our path smoother and a lot less stressful. One lesson that comes to mind when we picture this scene in our lives is “haste makes waste.” We know that if we are always hurrying, we will sometimes end up worse than if we had taken the time to think and choose a better path.
But there is a deeper lesson to be found in this story of the struggling canoes and it comes from Proverbs 16:25 (CEB): “There is a path that may seem straight to someone, but in the end it is the path of death.”
There are ways in our lives we think are the right way to go. We see everyone else going that way so it must be the “right” way. We see our friends thinking an idea is good so if they think it is good and they are good people, then it must be alright. This kind of thinking has gotten millions of people in trouble over the years. The easy path is all too often not the right one. The path that looks good from a distance may not be so good when we get up close but like the canoers who get caught, sometimes we find ourselves too far into the situation to change direction.
In Matthew 7, Jesus warned that the path of righteousness is narrow and we are to enter through the narrow gate. Choosing the right way is critical if we are to stay on the right path. As for our canoers, it was surprising how many watched those ahead of them, saw them get hung up on the short side of the sandbar, and yet still went the same way. Is that you? Do you mindlessly follow those before you no matter the result of their situation? However, some of them learned from those before them and with some quick maneuvering, took the right track, using the best path around the sandbar.
The same Jesus who tells us the gate is narrow is also the same one who proclaims to be the gate. It is through Him and Him only that we are able to get back on the right path. Which path will you choose this week?
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