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 (Manna 53: Conquering Addictions)
Losing the Path and Finding it Again
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Losing the Path and Finding it Again

LURES AND DECEPTIONS

A young girl began walking along a path. She was a child who walked closely in Jesus’ footsteps while spreading His love to those around her, friend and stranger alike.

The path she walked was long, but filled with life. Flowers lined the neat stones, and bright sunlight filtered through the silver-lined trees that spread out on the sides of the walkway, beyond which were dark woods filled with gloom, the dense treetops allowing no sunlight to shine through.

As the girl walked along the path, she paused for a moment to observe this dense gloom, wondering what lay behind the darkness. To her surprise, she could hear a faint, pathetic mewling from the direction she looked.

Hesitantly, she took a step towards the edge of the path. Stepping off, she entered the trees and into the dark woods. Very quickly, almost surprisingly quickly, she lost sight of the path behind her, but she walked determinedly on towards the sound that was slowly becoming louder as she walked.

Soon she came upon a small clearing. In the middle of that clearing was a small round ball of fur curled up tightly against the gloom and darkness as it mewled to itself.

The girl was hesitant to touch the small creature, unease filling her as she stared, wondering what was wrong with it. However, the mewling was so downcast that she determinedly but gently touched it. Immediately, the creature uncurled and leapt into her arms with a cry, revealing a small kitten, thin from starvation and exhausted from lack of proper rest.

The girl gently took up the thing, her heart completely taken by the pathetic creature. She patiently searched for food in the gloom and fed the kitten.

For days, she walked in this way, carrying the kitten as she fed it bits and pieces she found in the forest and nursing it back to gradual health. She ate some food herself, but found it most strangely bitter in her mouth. Still, she walked on, seeking the path she had left behind so many days ago.

She was beginning to despair of ever finding it again when she saw a faint light not too far away. She broke into a run, for fear of losing sight of it, hurrying towards it in sudden hope and desperation. Around her, the gloom got lighter and lighter. Eagerly, she hurried on and found that she had walked parallel to the path, for there was the path ending in a small house.

She slowed down and began to walk forward, but was stopped by a tall man who appeared before her, his face stern and commanding, a sharp contrast to the gentle white robe he wore.

”Father!!” She cried, recognizing his face immediately.

”Who are you, child, and why have you come here?” He asked her.

”I…I got lost after finding this kitten in the woods.” The words tumbled out of the child’s mouth, slightly shocked by the stern welcome.

”Kitten?” The man searched her arms, and His eyes softened. “My dear, that is no kitten you hold in your arms.”

”What do you mean?” Her arms curled possessively around the creature, who now looked up in obvious dislike at the man.

He looked at her with compassion in his eyes. “Come and see.” He led her to a clear pool that sat just beside the path.

The girl peered into the pool and was shocked to see that she did not recognize the reflection. In the pool was a hollow-cheeked girl, her dress in tatters. Her arms were bloody with scratches from the thorns and brambles she had forced her way through, her face equally scratched and unclean.

As the girl's eyes roved downwards, what she saw in her arms made her gasp in horror. The cat was still the creature she had found in the forest. Exposed in the daylight, it was still seemingly a skeleton, thin patches of fur giving it a diseased look in the bright light. The eyes, as it turned to look at the pool, glared dolefully at her.

In shock, she dropped the creature and backed away. With strength belying its seemingly weakened condition, it dashed back towards the woods, flicking its tail in disdain at the child as it disappeared. The girl flinched in shame when the Lord knelt down and gently held her in comfort.

“My daughter, your love becomes you, but you allowed yourself to be blinded by it, leaving My side in pursuit of such deception. In leaving Me, you became lost and alone. Be sure to stay alert and never stray so far from the path again, for that is what the devil wishes for you to do.”

* * *

WHAT IS YOUR WEAKNESS?

We are all susceptible to the wiles of Satan, whether we realize it or not. It would be easy to resist the devil if he appeared to us in the form of a big red monster with a trident and a long forked tail. But Satan is always quietly seeking ways to distract us from the Lord and draw us away from Him through subtle distractions or outright temptations that lure us through our physical desires.

It may not be easy, but it is important we examine ourselves and spot our own weaknesses, making us more alert and aware, so it is harder for the devil to draw us away. While examining ourselves in such a way, we must remember that what we view as a strength may be what will lead us to our downfall. A strength in compassion could lead us into the hands of Satan, who uses the same compassion to draw us away from God.

However, we don’t always realize that we have fallen into the trap of the devil. Often, we are lured into the dark forest without realizing that we have long left the path of the Lord behind us. “… he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going” (Jn 12:35). It is in these times that we must fully trust God to reveal the truth of our ways.

STRAYING FROM THE PATH

Even in knowing my own weaknesses, I have been unable to win against Satan without the hand of the Lord to guide me. Often, my weakness  is the addictive qualities of being able to be like those around me. In one such instance, my inability to resist the lure and addiction of physical wants and needs may have led to my downfall, had the Lord God not shown me His mercy and grace.

I once began talking to someone online, talking about our most common interests and about school on a forum made up of my fellow high school students. Eventually, we shifted our conversations to MSN (an online instant messaging program), and he began opening up, revealing his tumultuous emotions; he had recently gone through a breakup with a girlfriend he thought truly cared for him.

When I read this, I remember thanking the Lord that I was separate from this kind of community that I moved through every day in school, and was free from experiencing this kind of emotional cliffhanger.

How ironic that I dragged myself into it anyway.

Shortly after we had started to chat online daily, the relationship I had with him developed into something a non-believer would view as a boyfriend–girlfriend relationship. We had become emotional buffers for each other, breaking down the barriers we usually held. I had already told him our values and beliefs regarding dating, and he understood completely.

However, I soon realized that I wanted the kind of relationship everyone around regarded us as having. As a result, both in and out of school, we began acting more and more like a couple, maybe a brief hug in passing down the hallway or sticking together all the time during lunch and after school.

Reflecting on that time, I truly thank God that it never went a millimeter beyond that. The after-effects of this kind of living, though, resulted in a very distant relationship with God.

LEAVING THE DARK WOODS

An opportunity to really think about my situation came up when my local church organized a Student Spiritual Convocation (SSC). I looked forward to it with my usual anticipation, but I also felt anxious—about being unable to find the answers to the questions tumbling through my mind, about being unable to experience His greatness, and especially about being unable to find Him at all.

During that SSC I spent more time in the prayer room than ever before, and a lot of my free time was spent alone in the chapel. Closed off from the world, I soon realized how far I had really strayed from God. As I thought about His word, I slowly began to realize why the path I was on felt so wrong. I had seen that God had been fading from my life more and more, but never before had He been so far from my heart.

Even though we did not view each other as a boyfriend and girlfriend, the people around us did. In pushing God away, the image I had presented to those around me was not one of a child of Jesus Christ, much less the heart I presented to God Himself. I was shocked at the way I had shown myself to my friends, hidden myself from my parents, and moreover, parted myself from God.

The realization of my straying only came when I was reminded of how we must walk closely in the Lord’s footsteps. The closer I drew to my friend, the further I drew from God; He was no longer first in my heart.

This new relationship had become much more important to me, so much that I pushed aside any thoughts about spending more time in prayer and meditating on God’s love and mercy. By slowly returning to these thoughts, I finally broke away from the dark path I had been treading.

Having determined these things, I knew what steps I had to take, and all I could do then was pray for strength. Soon after the SSC, I took steps to sever the relationship we had formed. I still talk to him occasionally, but I am always careful to never let things go beyond that.

Of course, it was difficult to let go of a close relationship like that. I left behind many tears and brought with me too many painful memories. To be able to let go, I had to force myself to completely rely on God to be my strength. “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies” (Ps 18:3).

Only by drawing upon His love was I able to leave behind the dark wood I had walked into.

* * *

FINDING GOD AGAIN

During that time, the person I had thought I could help ended up being my deceptive kitten. I certainly do not view him as the devil, but I do know that the devil used him as a tool to draw me away from the Lord, and could have used him to cut me off from the Lord completely. I am truly thankful the Holy Spirit remained as a light within my heart to remind me of the Lord’s values, and of the bright path I had so quickly left behind.

I have long since let go of the incident, and have come to terms with myself, but I am still often worried that I will fall into another trap just as easily. “And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid” (Ps 18:4). Upon reflection, I realized that I had failed to be alert, and I realized the importance of being awake and vigilant to the workings of the devil.

I now use this experience to remind myself to remember my weaknesses and stay close to the path of God. We are very exposed to the jaws of Satan by living on his world, but being “sheep in the midst of wolves,” we must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Mt 10:16). Though the ways Satan lures us away from God are often subtle and difficult to see, the Lord would never allow him to place anything in our path that is beyond our abilities to overcome. The Lord knows our limitations better than even we do, and in His love and care will always show an exit sign that will lead us out of any temptations we have stumbled and tripped into.

We need only look around, locate the path He has shown, and step onto it. It is entirely up to us to surrender our will to His, and walk closely in His Way so that we may be safely and securely brought back to Him after seeing the error of our ways. Often, the only way of realization and escape is through the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit that dwells in our hearts.

Ask yourself always: Has my deceptive kitten lured me from the side of God?

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