I once went mushroom hunting and had no idea which mushroom was safe to pick and eat. Add to this, the complication that I was in a different country with companions who were learning English, and mushroom terminology was not part of the curriculum! As we stepped over logs and scoured under leaves, I had to rely on their “yes” or “no.” Left to my own devices, I certainly would have gathered ones that would cause illness. But, thankfully, we enjoyed the most delicious mushroom soup afterward—with no ill effect.
As we walk with God through the forests of our lives, we often don’t know what to gather that will nourish us. To teach us, God walks with us using the language of the Bible, circumstance, and internal nudges. We can become more adept in this language if we pay attention regularly.
So often, when we follow the prescribed paths—whether prescribed by parents, teachers, leaders, church culture, or wider culture—we miss a lot of mushrooms. We don’t listen to the guide. There’s a path so we follow it, whether it’s our path or not. We go forward because it’s safe and clear, while our Companion is pointing off to a thicket of trees to our right with a forest of mushrooms beneath—delicacies that will enrich our meal together. But we have to see him pointing, we have to say yes to the wander and no to the path, yes to the unknown and no to the clear, so that we can gather the gifts, joys, and nourishment to our soul that he intends for us.
Have you ever hiked a trail that was harder and longer than you expected, and you didn’t bring enough water or snacks? You start to ration your sips and bites. Your mindset shifts into gritty determination to ignore the discomforts of dry throat and rumbling stomach. Making it to the end becomes the victory, hopefully with a nearby store, vending machine, or at least a water fountain!
But when you adventure with someone who knows where to find nourishment, you don’t have to carry so much, and you can finish your adventure satiated, even delighted! It takes trust, lots of it, because there’s no trail map telling you how long it will be or where to find food and water, there’s only Him—your Guide.
Maybe you have followed already into the woods. Stop and turn to your Guide and pay attention to what he’s pointing out, what he’s highlighting in your life. Are there topics, ideas, people, that are repeated in your life, seemingly out of nowhere or with no relation to each other—coincidentally?
That is often Jesus, the truest, wisest guide, showing you something that he is tending to. He is gathering these things to you for your benefit. It could be opportunities regarding service, or the topic of forgiveness keeps cropping up, or you keep crossing paths with a neighbor in unlikely places. It could be any of a million things, so take some moments to pay attention, maybe write them down to start seeing the connections, and listen to the Lord as he gathers them. What is he teaching you? Asking of you? Giving you?
Maybe you are on the path—it could be a trajectory laid out for you from birth, the most logical way forward, what someone else wants for you, or something that will benefit your pocketbook while starving your heart. If it is a path that Jesus is leading, not other people or other purposes, stay on it. Trust your Guide!
But if you realize your Guide has stopped and is pointing off into the woods, and you recognize your path was laid out by someone or something else, I encourage you to go gather your goodness with your good Guide. You are probably terrified of stepping off the path. It’s risky, there’s cost, and you don’t really like tramping through brush anyway. But He will never fail you. He is for you, He will not leave you nor forsake you, for you are His beloved. Trust your Guide!
Whether you are in the woods gathering insights or on the path contemplating the step off, gather your wise, encouraging friends and share with them what God has been showing you. Have them pray and listen to God, too. We are fallible, we might gather the wrong mushrooms or draw the wrong conclusions, and the people the Lord has gathered into our lives are instruments of his grace. Do the same for them.
Maybe you are part of a small group at church, bring this to them. Maybe you have one or two trustworthy people who are looking out for your best interest, gather with them. If you don’t have these kinds of people in your life, ask God to gather them.
The Lord who points out what is worth gathering in our lives is the same who gathers us to himself, trust him to lead you well.