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Topic: Paths (05/17/04)
TITLE: P A T H S
By Phyllis Inniss
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Angelic voices singing sweetly the twenty-third psalm brought tears to my eyes. Struggling to hold back the tears, now iridescent with the sun streaming through the lattice work of the hall, I mustn’t cry, I thought. There was a poetic splendour to the afternoon as the nearby trees waving their luxuriant foliage in the tropical breeze created patterns with their shadows and the sunlight. The young children between the ages of seven and eleven, their melodious voices rising and falling, were singing at a farewell function in my honour. I had taught some of them and didn’t want to exhibit any weakness before them.
With such lovely music filling my ears, I decided there and then I was going to make the twenty-third psalm part of my daily prayer. Since that day in 1956, I have prayed that prayer, “The Lord is.my Shepherd. On my journey by ship from Trinidad to London, England, I could still hear those harmonious voices singing to me “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Those words did not have the same meaning for me then as they have right now. I had to learn ‘the hard way’ as the old people used to tell us. I followed my own path. I enjoyed fleeting successes. I didn’t think God was behind them, because they were coming to me very easily, without my walking in the path God wanted me to take. Temporary pleasures gave no real satisfaction. I was always searching for something more.
Yes, I prayed. Something, however, was always missing. As disappointments followed me around, I began questioning myself. I was always trying to do things on my own, never asking for help. I didn’t trust many people, because I would hear how some persons were backbiting their friends and betraying them. I too suffered betrayal. Later on I came to trust the Lord and followed the psalmist who said, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man” Psalm118:8 and “Trust in the Lord……..make straight your path.” Prov.3:5-6
I realized that I wasn’t praying as sincerely as I should. I wasn’t committing myself to the Lord. I would begin a prayer and my mind would wander and I would have to bring it back to focus on what I was saying. This was annoying to me. I asked the Lord to help me – to show me the paths of righteousness, the path of life. I knew then without His help I wouldn’t get anywhere. I would be in a state of inbetweenity and unable to achieve His holy wisdom, His power to succeed and fulfill His word.
It took some time before I understood that to love the Lord is to do His will and always ask for His help. Like the psalmist, I ask the Lord to “Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.” My enemies are lies, deceit, hate, envy, malice, cheating, slander, gossip, aggressiveness. There are so many paths open to us because God has given us free choice, but if we stick only to the paths he has chosen for us, and not go off wandering on our own, we will find peace.
I like Proverbs 4:18 “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” The light of dawn is an awakening of the spirit to the newness of a glorious beginning that gets brighter and more resplendent as we move into the fullness of our experience with God. We can feel the peace that only Jesus gives, not temporary but lasting. A peace you can share with others, a peace that makes others wonder at the repose and calm with which you handle others and yourself. You remind them that it was Jesus who said, “My peace I give unto you.” Without preaching or sermonizing you gently persuade them to follow the paths that Jesus has outlined for us and that peace will be theirs as well.