In an effort to find seldom-fished waters, a couple of friends and I headed out on a rustic trail alongside a wild Northwest river.
Eventually the trail diverted from the river, and as we kept hiking the trail diverted from us as well. We decided to trek the half-mile cross-country down to the stream, where it turned out to be a wonderful day of fishing. The sun began to dip behind the mountains as we made our way back up the hillside, and as darkness quickly approached, there was no trail in sight. We were each silently praying for any glimpse of the path that would lead us home. If you’ve ever been in this predicament, you understand how much fallen trees look like paths, raising your hopes, only to be a dead end. I won’t easily forget the incredible relief in finally finding the trail. It didn’t mean we were home yet, but it felt like it because our hearts knew it would only be a matter of time before the wet shoes and tired muscles would be just a memory.
Life sometimes provides trail-finding moments—times when we know we aren’t home yet, but we know we’re on the way. God has us in his strong arms and there’s a solid faith that the struggle, doubt, loneliness, or whatever that befalls us here will someday be a faint, distant dream. I say “sometimes” because I don’t live here all the time, so I must remember these moments. Just as they did in the Old Testament, I need to build altars, or places of memory, to help me when I can’t find the trail. I desperately need to remember times I’ve found the way—or maybe when the way has found me. We all get lost, whether it’s for a few seconds or a few decades, and it’s in these times we need memories of found trails.
Help your teens build places of memory. Help them drive a stake in the ground, where the fog of life’s fears, worries, and troubles lifts, and God’s presence and character shine through. Tell them stories of when this has happened in your life, and how you’ve chosen to remember those times—giving you hope for the times the trail’s hard to find.