Tripping over your own feet

Living a Christian life is counter-intuitive to our own common sense. Did you realize that? So much of what we think we should do in our own strength is exactly what we shouldn’t do if we want to live the kind of life Christ did.

I mean, think of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. The people who are happy are the poor, the meek, the unfortunate, the sorrowful.

Say good things about your enemies. Pray for people who manipulate you. Turn the other cheek. Go the extra mile for your oppressors. Forgive.

Does any of that sound intuitive to you? It doesn’t to me. My first instinct when I get my feelings hurt is to hurt the perpetrator back, not to turn around and say good things about them. And I don’t want to pray for people who use me. And I don’t want to work myself to death for someone who’s just going to hurt me in the end.

But . . . Jesus did.

Today’s verse is Psalm 25:14-15.

14 The Lord is a friend to those who fear him.
      He teaches them his covenant.
 15 My eyes are always on the Lord,
      for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.

There’s a lot to cover in this passage, but the part that stood out to me this morning is verse 15.

Okay. I’m a fairly clumsy person. It’s not uncommon for me to run into things on the rare occasion. I’m not as bad as some people I know, but I’m certainly not the most graceful person in the world either. Just get me to try to mount a horse or ride in a canoe and you’ll find out how awkward I am. But walking doesn’t generally give me any trouble, unless there are a lot of obstacles on the ground.

I went to a writing workshop in Colorado in June of this year with my best buddy, Katie Morford, and we hiked up a mountain trail to take pictures. Well, I learned a long time ago that my asthma, though it is better than it was when I was a child, still loves to flare up in low-oxygen environments. And the only way I can keep going in a situation like that is if I look at my feet. If I try to walk like I normally do, over rocks and roots and beautiful bubbling streams, I will step wrong and fall on my face. I actually did fall during that hike, but I caught myself with one hand on a rock and the other on my camera to keep it from smashing into the ground.

I have to watch my feet. I have to second guess every step because my brain stops working. I can’t look at my destination because if I focus on where I’m going I won’t be able to get there. I have to focus on how I get there, where I step, how big of a step to take, how solid the ground is, how wiggly the rocks are, how tired my legs are, how much tread is on my twelve-year-old boots.

How many of us Christians are just stumbling through life? How many of us are bound to watch our feet and watch our step because if we dare to look up we’re scared that we’ll fall?

Here’s where Psalm 25:15 comes in. The Message, a paraphrase but a good translation, translates this verse:

15 If I keep my eyes on God,
   I won’t trip over my own feet.

What makes sense when you’re traveling rocky ground is to watch your feet to make sure that you don’t step wrong. That’s instinctive. What isn’t instinctive is to keep your eyes on your destination.

Living a Christian life isn’t easy. It’s hard. It’s harder than anything else. Becoming a Christian is easy. Living like one is a challenge. The ground is rocky and full of pits and traps, and my instinctive reaction when walking through a minefield is to stare at my feet. But that means that I’m trusting myself to get me through safely. And I can’t trust myself because I don’t know where I’m going. (I’m the person who got lost in Wal-Mart when their store designers moved the Katie Lee section.) I don’t know all the plans God has for me and for my life, and I have to look to Him constantly so that He can show me where I’m supposed to go.

I can’t watch my feet and His direction at the same time.

So the only thing to do is the counter-intuitive thing to do. To watch Him and trust that He won’t let me step wrong. If I’m watching Him and if I’m trusting Him for every step I take, He won’t let me stand on a loose rock or a weak bridge over a pit or step on a mine. If I watch Him and follow His directions, He will take me down safe paths. They won’t be easy and they may not be comfortable, but no matter where the path goes or how it gets me there, I will be safer with Him than I ever would be following my own directions.

And if I keep my eyes on Him, He will keep me from tripping over my own feet. If I keep my eyes on Him, He will prevent me from making mistakes I shouldn’t make.

And the awesome thing about God is that even if I’ve been following myself it’s not too late for me. God is big enough to pull me out of any pit I’ve fallen into. All I have to do is look to Him, and He will rescue me and put me on the safe path.