John Halvorsen -
It was Thanksgiving Day, and I was walking my usual 16 miles through the Mojave desert, planning on stopping for a meal to give thanks to the Lord that evening.
On the route that day was a stop at an oasis gas station in Fenner, California. Sandy and I were looking forward to seeing people during that brief stop before heading back into the remote wilderness on Route 66, where we hadn’t encountered other folks for many miles.
On the walk that day, two things happened that got my attention, and made me realize that without the wisdom of God, it’s very easy for us to come to totally wrong conclusions about events happening around us. We could simply miss what God is doing right in front of us, or worse, make potentially lethal decisions.
Just having passed the Fenner oasis, we were now seeing a number of other cars on the road, and I was walking on a dirt path along the railroad tracks that paralleled Route 66. Sandy had pulled the camper ahead, parked in a wide spot on the shoulder, and was walking back to meet me so we could walk and pray together for a mile or so. As she walked, a car coming towards her pulled over and a man with a very concerned expression anxiously asked, “There’s a man walking along the railroad tracks back there. Is he with you?”
Sandy responded in the affirmative, shared about the prayer walk across America, asked the motorist’s name and how she could pray for him.
“I’m so relieved to know that he’s your husband and that he is OK!” the driver, Matthew, fervently said, holding his hand over his heart. “I was so worried about how I was going to help him! I travel this road a lot and never see anyone walking, so I thought he might be someone’s grandfather with dementia, wandering lost along the tracks. Then, when I saw your vehicle parked on the shoulder and saw you walking as well, I thought maybe you had broken down and I was very concerned about the whole situation. What a relief to know that everything is OK!”
Sandy thanked Matthew for his tender, compassionate heart, prayed a blessing over him and walked back to meet me. As she shared the story, I found it very funny. I’d been mistaken for an escaped convict on previous prayer walks, and for a homeless man, but never for a wandering grandfather with dementia!
I chuckled about this until the second occurrence happened that day, and then I began to see that the Lord was speaking to us, perhaps giving us a warning about the road ahead.
I had been seeing some very lovely, large flowers growing along the shoulder of the desolate road. Lavish foliage surrounded the fragrant, lavender trimmed blossoms. Such glorious flowers growing in this wasteland! They were a very welcome contrast to the austere landscape that we were walking through and really got my attention. Sandy noticed them too, and headed over to take photos so she could find out what they were. She was tempted to pick one to decorate her hair, but then had a twinge of “environmentalism” and left it growing for the next traveler to enjoy.
“Wow! I’m sure glad that I didn’t touch those flowers!” Sandy remarked when she’d had a chance to Google their identity. “They are called Daturas, and every part of the plant is highly poisonous. Despite the regular warnings that go out, they are used frequently by those seeking drug highs. They are also used in witchcraft and have been the cause of many deaths over the years.”
What a shock that something that appeared so beautiful, so innocent and so inviting could actually prove fatal!
“Daturas grow in desert regions where the sandy soil has recently been disturbed,” Sandy went on to say. “The spiritual implication of this is to watch out when the soil of your human spirit has just gone through upheaval. That’s when the enemy may want to plant something that appears beautiful and comforting, but is actually toxic and deadly.”
Later that day my “light bulb” went off. I knew that the Lord was highlighting a spiritual reality to us and it was that we could not depend on our own judgment of a situation but always needed to inquire of the Lord to know the truth. By appearance, Matthew had judged that I was in danger when actually I was safe in God’s will. By appearance, we had judged the flowers to be delightfully desired when, in reality, they could be lethal.
I was reminded of the story in Joshua 9 where, because of appearances and contrary to God’s desire, Joshua made a treaty with a tribe that came to him under totally false pretenses. The end result of this was confusion for Israel and a famine that cost many lives years later during the time of David. Verse 14 gives the reason that it happened; “The Israelites ate of their food and did not consult the Lord.” They discerned the situation according to how it appeared to mortal reasoning instead of submitting the mind of the flesh, which brings death, to the mind of the Spirit, which, according to Romans 8:6, always brings life and peace.
Scripture is full of examples of what happens when we follow flawed human logic instead of consulting the Lord, culminating with the Pharisees judging Jesus to be in error, and actually crucifying the Lord of Glory.
This caused me to think back on the times in my life that I had misjudged things according to appearances rather than inquiring of the Lord. I also realized that the Lord may be giving us a “head’s up” for any confusing events that may be coming down the road. It’s time to humble ourselves and submit all of our own discernment to the mind of the Lord, lest we end up making some choices we would later regret.
Here is our prayer: “Lord, Your thoughts and Your ways are higher than my thoughts and my ways. The way of a man is not in himself, it is not in man that walks to direct his own steps. We submit our thoughts and our ways to You and we lean not on our own human understanding. We trust in You to direct our daily paths and decisions forward into life everlasting. Today, may we only make choices based on discernment from your life-giving Holy Spirit! Amen!”