Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jesus The Trail Guide

Here's an expanded version of an analogy that popped into my head the other day as my wife and I were discussing the atonement. Hope you like it!
I think that we can think of ourselves as lost in a huge forest (or desert, jungle, or other place where it's difficult to find your way). There are tall trees, beautiful meadows with wildflowers, scary and dark portions with wild and ferocious animals, and all other things that one would expect to find in a forest.. There are deer trails heading every which direction. And for some reason, you are completely lost, not sure how you got here, and having not even a clue as to which way you need to go to get to safety.
As you wander, you come across others who seem to be just as lost. Some headed north, others south, east and west. Eventually we come across a group of people traveling together. They seem much more confident in their chosen direction of travel, and there seems to be safety in numbers, so you join them. As you travel, you start to see if you can find out who's in charge, and how they know if they're going the right way. You ask person after person, to find out that none of them has ever been here before, yet they're pretty sure they know which way to go. Already a bit troubled, you really get uneasy when you come across another group, just as large as your own... and they're headed in the opposite direction almost. They seemed every bit as confident as you did. You decide after talking to them that you're not headed in the right direction, but you don't want to go back the way you came, so you head off on your own again.
As you wander, alone again, you see someone up ahead of you on the trail. He looks big and strong, yet kind, and very wise. As you approach, he smiles. You visit for a minute, and find out that he knows the way out. This entire forest, he says, is on his land. He knows it inside and out, every corner of it... and most of all, how to get through it safely. He's been in here, and left the forest. He then came back to show others how to get out. He asks if you'd like him to be your guide. You're quite excited by the idea, but wonder what he wants in return. Guessing what you are thinking, he says that he expects nothing in return, no reward or payment. The only condition is that you have to follow behind him, not the other way around. It seems simple enough, and you agree.
So he heads off down the trail, going the opposite direction from where you were headed before. You follow him for quite a while. He takes side trails to take you to a spring where you can get something to drink. Or he takes a trail off into some bushes with berries to eat. All the while, he stays ahead of you. At times, you feel like you have to sit down and rest, and as you do, he stops up ahead and just waits. Everything seems to be working very well, and you're quite pleased with your decision to follow.
As you're walking, it's hard to tell where you're going, because the trail is so narrow. You can't see past him very well. But you seem to catch glimpses of a meadow ahead. There are others there, who seem to be just enjoying themselves in the sun of the meadow. As you approach, he takes a sharp turn to the left, following a different trail that seems to be headed towards a scary looking section of forest. You pause at the fork in the trail. It looks so nice to be out of the trees, and out in the open. The people there seem to be having such a nice time... You look toward your guide. He's stopped, waiting for you. He beckons with his hand to follow... But you feel like you need a break from all this hiking. It's hard work, so you head off into the meadow.
After a couple of minutes, clouds cover the sun. The people who seemed so interesting and fun to see now seem more dull. You wonder if you're guide is still around, or if he left. Maybe you should go check... Just then, a pack of wolves comes rushing into the meadow. The people start to scatter... you don't know which way to flee. Then you catch sight of your guide, standing calmly at the edge of the meadow. You try to make your way toward him, but a wolf catches you from behind. He sinks his teeth in, but you manage to fight it off. You run to your guide, still standing there beckoning to you to come. You collapse to the ground in front of him. He picks you up and runs into the forest, along the trail where you'd left him. Once safely away, he sets you down and begins to clean and bandage your wounds. Once you've had something to drink, he gets up, and reminds you that all he asks is that you follow him and he'll get you out of here safely. Then he heads down the trail.
So you stand up, and start limping along behind him, feeling a little beat up, but already feeling much better than you expected. You commit to yourself that you're not going to leave your guide again...
Sadly, you find yourself doing just that, again and again. You catch glimpses of the path ahead, and start to wonder if he's really taking you on the right path. Sometimes it seems as if he's taking you up and down mountains, crossing back and forth across rivers, and going through thorny bushes for no reason at all. Why not just stay on this side of the river, or walk around the mountain? And every so often, you decide it would be so much better, so much easier to take this path instead. So you do. And every time, whether sooner or later, the wolves arrive. You realize how bad the decision was, and you want Him back.
But he never follows you. He holds to the arrangement. You are to follow him. He is the guide. When you chose to take your own path, he does nothing to force you to come back, but only beckons and calls your name. But, as soon as you realize you made a mistake, and want him back as a guide, he is there, showing you the way. He even will pick you up and carry you, but only when you really need it. And only when you've chosen to come with him.
So it is with the Savior. He is the greatest of guides. Not only has he been here, and made it out of the forest, but the world is His. It's his creation. His view surpasses our own, and He is able to lead us around obstacles, however appealing they may seem, that would have hindered our progress.
My favorite part of this analogy though is the way that the Savior is always there for us. He won't go with us on our wrong paths. But the moment we recognize our error, and want him back, he's there to show us the way. There's no where in the "forest" we can go whence he cannot lead us out again. He will come to us the darkest places. No matter how rebellious, how sinful we choose to be, if we'll just turn around, and look to Him, take a step his direction... He will lead us to safety.
P.S. I like the way this makes sin look as well... it's simply choosing to go down a path that isn't the right one. And it all kind of links back up with pride being the universal sin... why else would we ever leave our guide? It's the assumption that we know better.

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