Lord, teach me how to stay on alert, watching out for the traps insidiously camouflaged, waiting for me to take one false step and cave in to fear, or greed, or false symbols of who I am. Show me where the enemy has poisoned the thorns inside the bushes. Help me to recognize evil, and avoid it completely, clinging to what is good and promotes love. When the path is overgrown and I’m wading through tall weeds only you can show the way-- your wise kindness and the light of your truth pointing out danger, leading me forward. Heart fixed on you, I can walk safely through the brush on the narrow path you’ve chosen for me, your loved one, without stumbling. I will follow without wavering, rejecting inertia and deviation, choosing the right way forward because you’re with me, holding my right hand.
Everywhere around us, the world seems to be a tangled web of assumptions, and temptations to believe “whatever.” It is so easy to just retreat in fear, to grab onto that which seems safe and dismiss what might challenge our own past suppositions.
More than ever I find myself begging for discernment. Only our Lord knows the real truth, and only he can direct me forward in the way that conforms with his purposes. I was so desperate to be discerning last year that I dared to delve into memorizing Romans 12, attracted by the verse that says: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2 CSB). In the NIV, it says, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is” (Rom. 12:2 NIV). To discern is to test what you are hearing, and to choose to approve that which aligns with what the Lord wants.
What is implicit here is that you must be able to recognize and reject that which is not from him. It comes later, in verse 9: “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” What this said to me was that I was not to fall prey to the easy way out, excusing the wickedness that is in some choice just because of the other good that is being used to camouflage it. This is not normal, and it sure is tricky!,
It is, in fact, scary. Like the woman in the picture above, there were times in my African experience when the bush path we were taking was basically covered up by the burgeoning plants. What if there were snakes down under it all? Or scorpions? I always felt safer when I was not alone but following someone, still stamping hard to scare off any threat. How else could I even take the right steps forward?
So it makes a huge difference to me that the Lord has promised to show us the way! He even states firmly that he will hold our right hand, to lead us. In the West African culture, as it was in the Hebrew culture, the right hand is the hand of good action (the left hand is saved for dirty work!). With the Almighty All-wise God holding my right hand, he is not just comforting me but making sure I choose to do what is right.
That is, if I pay attention to him, to his grip and to his pull in the direction he has chosen!
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Rom. 12:9 NIV)
Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (Hos. 14:9 NIV)
For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isa. 41:13 NIV)