Stinging nettles. Now there’s a close encounter you’d like to avoid. I’ve only run into them once, and that was one time too many.
During one break from school my four younger kids and I were looking for an adventure. Since we didn’t have time for a camping trip, we decided to try for a camping day instead.
I packed my own four and three neighbor friends into my trusty Suburban for the trek across town. Kit Carson Park was our destination. It had lots of trees lining the creek, and a trail at the far end that we had never explored.
The clearly marked trail wound all the way to the far corner of the park and ran alongside the creek. We followed it contentedly for a while. It was quiet and tree-lined, giving us the illusion of being far from home.
After a time the trail began to seem a little tame, and the lure of greater adventure beckoned. We abandoned the path and scrambled down to walk alongside the creek. Surprise! One of the boys fell in and not only found it much colder than he’d imagined, but also discovered how badly stagnant water can smell. Then one of the girls cut herself playing “Indiana Jones” in the bamboo. So much for adventure! We clambered back up the bank through some innocuous looking weeds.
When we reached the top, I felt like some angry insect had stung my legs multiple times. Immediately I realized that those not-so-innocuous weeds were actually stinging nettles. I’d heard of them, but unfortunately in all our many camping trips I’d never had them pointed out to me. Before now.
Hoping to forestall a wave of copy-cat complaints I decided to suffer in silence. It was a short-lived hope. Two of the girls had inadvertently wandered through them as well, and were now hopping madly up and down, shrieking and howling. The youngest boy—the one who had fallen in the creek—also discovered that the dirty water that had splashed in one eye was causing it to swell rapidly.
The camping day had turned into a camping hour. We returned home.
The mistake we made was to leave the trail. True of that hike, but it’s also true of life.
God has a path, a trail for each of us to walk and it’s found in a right relationship with Him. There is joy, peace, and security there that can be found nowhere else, because He has designed us to know and love Him. But all too often, we leave that path and abandon that relationship because something else seems like more fun.
Sin can appear like more fun, but it is never without consequences. Self-will leads to the stinging nettles of life: discouragement, lack of joy and peace, and discontent. God knows that pain is sometimes the only thing that motivates us to heed His voice. In our human wisdom “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 26:25).”
God allows those stinging nettles because He loves us and desires for us to return to the path that includes fellowship with him. He gives us His wisdom if we ask (James 1:5). He gives us His word that gives us direction for our everyday lives (Psalm 143:8). He gives us light for each step (Psalm 119:105).
So what did my kids and I learn that day? We’d rather be on the right path than to ever again encounter those awful stinging nettles.
Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5
1. Have you ever strayed from the path of fellowship with the Lord?
2. What was that like for you?
3. What did it take to motivate you to renew your relationship with Him?
Father, You are the source of everything good. My heart is satisfied as I walk with You, on the path You have designed for me. Thank You that when I have wandered off, You sent stinging nettles to remind me to trust Your wisdom rather than my own.