“O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” ~ELW Evening Prayer
(Names have been changed to protect privacy.)
When Jim and I first mapped out our walking routes here a few years ago, we were delighted to find a mobile home park on level ground that gave us a reprieve from walking the hills. The park is an older one, and several of the trailers in the park are quite run down and unkempt. I felt a little nervous when I first began walking around that area, but in a short time I felt at ease and comfortable.
Over the past year, I have become a familiar face to many of the residents. Several people now greet me warmly; some have become friends I know by name. I am blessed by Lynn, whose joyful faith in God radiates in her cheerful smile and affection for all people. I am grateful for Rob, who gave me some tips for walking that helped lessen my back pain. He in turn appreciates my prayers for his wife Rita, who has heart trouble.
One of my special friends was Douglas. He acknowledged that years of hard living had destroyed his lungs as he struggled to breathe with the help of an oxygen tank. Douglas was a widower with no family, and I would try to brighten his days by occasionally stopping by to chat. He told me how much my visits meant to him in his long and lonely days, but I was blessed, too.
One cold day in November we sat at his kitchen table while I warmed up a bit (he scolded me for not wearing gloves). I asked Douglas how his spirit was and he just looked a little sheepish. I told him how much God loves us all, no matter what. I am not one to share my faith in conversations with others, so I was surprised by the Spirit’s movement that morning. Maybe I sensed that his remaining life on earth would not be long.
I last saw Douglas on Thanksgiving. I was relieved to know that another neighbor was bringing him a meal later that day. We hugged before I left and I wished him a good day. A few weeks later, I stopped by with Christmas cookies but he didn’t come to the door. Neighbors informed me that he was hospitalized and would be moved to a rehabilitation center. Last week I checked again with a neighbor and was sad to learn Douglas had died the week before. Blinking back tears, I thanked God for Douglas and our short friendship, and the blessings we had both received.
And then there was this…
One morning last week I walked through the mobile home park and was surprised to find one of the trailers and three cars had been wrapped with crime scene tape! Police officers were filling out paperwork and taking photos. I knew the resident’s name, and so I asked one officer if he was okay. The officer looked at me quite seriously and replied, “Well… no one died.” He asked me if I lived in the park. When I explained that I just walk there, his eyes widened and he warned me, “Be careful back here!” His tone and his expression seemed to say that I should have known better.
Perhaps Jim and I began our route naïvely, quite unaware of what goes on in that mobile home park. At times we did notice some activities that made us wonder what might be happening there. But I have received so many blessings- and I have had the opportunity to bless- because of this route we have taken.
“Through perils unknown…” I love this evening prayer. In all of life, we cannot know what lies ahead; there can be dangers or difficulties no matter what we do. We cannot predict what the next step will bring. We cannot guarantee our safety or security as we travel life’s path- and what might we miss if we could? God calls us to venture out anyway, to live life fully and abundantly and especially without fear.
I do not plan to be foolhardy, but I will continue to walk this path, even with its perils known. In between the hidden risks or dangers, there are so many good people. People who need a smile, people who stop to chat, people who need someone to check on them, people who need to know how much God loves them, too. People who also bless my life, people I miss when they are gone. Now I DO know better, but not in the way the officer might believe I should.
In spite of perils that await- whether unknown or known- we can “go out with good courage” on any and every path of life, because we trust this one known certainty: God’s hand is leading us and God’s love is supporting us, no matter where we go.