New Season, New Trail

Written by Aileen McKernan (Charlottesville, Virginia, USA)

Aileen McKernan, Jesus lover, Physical Therapist, and Certified Health Coach, owns JointFit, a women’s faith based fitness company that exists to empower women to overcome food and self-esteem issues. She loves trail running, taking photos, and cooking for her friends and family.

March 15, 2022

For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; When He hears it, He will answer you. And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, But your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left. –Isaiah 30:19-21 NKJV

I had combed every corner of this place, the trails along the creek, the long winding loops that gracefully lace the perimeter of the park; I had even explored some of the newer trails on the far side of the river, so I was surprised when the Lord led me to take this trail.
It was one I surely passed hundreds of times before, but it had been kept hidden from my notice.
Until this time.
This day.
This run.

It feels like my life right now. 

Having lived in my small city of Charlottesville, Virginia for almost eleven years, it’s opened its avenues and neighborhoods to me, unfolded its mysteries in a series of delight after delight.
Recently it has become all too familiar.
I buck against it.
Blame it on the tumultuous childhood home I was raised in, chaos was my steady-state, and peace still has an uneasy edge to me.
I push against it and want to leave.
I feel no release to go.

I feel no release to go even amid an uneasy season.
I am “in transition.”
Roots are being removed as I do have the green light to disembark from a corporate management role to pursue the call God has placed on me to encourage women to be well from a Biblical perspective.
I sense there may be a shift in my living arrangements as well, but I am seeking God for specifics that are slow to come.

All this uncertainty.

I don’t have a trail map and I don’t care.
I have all the time in the world today and I know the park well enough to know even if I get lost I will get found.
So I start down into the first edges of fall woods in wonder, delight, joy, anticipation, and excitement.
It’s been a long time since I took a new trail, never mind that it’s right in the midst of all that is familiar.

I come alive, my eyes, my mind, my senses, my heart soak in new meanderings of the trail, this rise here, that slope there, takes in the turning of the season, the dryness of the summer told in the crackle of the ground, the thickness of spiders’ webs sticking to my skin in the still humidity of a Virginia fall alerting me that few people have pierced the interior of the park today.

I receive the lesson, Lord.
Even into the depths.
Even into the darkness.
Even into the heart of the matter, those cob-webbed places few have braved to go.
For the dark is as light to you and you are my light and salvation leading me through this shadow of death.
So lead me Lord and I will follow even when I am unsure of your still small voice.
I am yours. 

I come upon intersections, read unfamiliar cross trails signs, and trust my gut, or God’s sense of where to go.
And soon enough I pop up alongside the creek, one of my favourite stretches as it carves and cuts alongside the waters and enjoy a half-mile at a quickened pace.
I smile.
I am flying and I am free with just enough confidence to trek down another unfamiliar trail.

My confidence is abruptly interrupted.
As sure as I was a few minutes ago, I have no sense of where I am or where I need to go.
But I’ve been lost before, really lost, not just playing around like today. I am not worried.
I explore intersections, take my best guess on vaguely familiar trail names as I recently read them, head one way for a few hundred meters, and circle back. There is no panic in my pace, just measured, calculated steps because I know I am going to be okay.

I decide I don’t have enough fuel in my body or in my running vest to explore any longer.
I am tired and my snacks are in my car.
My GPS is running to record my run so I pull it out, find myself, reorient and head towards the parking lot more sure than ever before, that I can trust Him even amid both familiarity and uncertainty.

I disembark, the woods, the park, the dock, the shore of all that has been comfortable to plum the depths of this transition with God, accepting some things may stay the same but I will find new paths in it and that some things may be different and I can take confidence in not knowing the way because of the one who is looking over me.

I gobble some trail mix, guzzle some water, and drive home full of joy and a deeper sense of His peace with me than I’ve experienced in a while.
I am not fighting it this season, it’s the thing I need the most.

For further thought:

• What kind of season are you in right now? Of being planted? Or of uprooting? It can be both!
• How do you react or respond to God when you are anxious to move on from a situation or place but He is leading you to stay?
• How do you react or respond to God when you sense He is leading you into unfamiliar territory and you want to stay put?
• Are you resisting Him in any area of your life?
• Are there any scriptures or lessons you’ve learned from previous seasons that can comfort you right now?
• What would it take for you to Let Go and Let God?

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