Desire Paths

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
   for the LORD!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
   for our God!
Fill in the valleys,
   and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
   and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
   and all people will see it together.
   The LORD has spoken!” (Isaiah 40:3–5 NLT)

A desire path is the name for an unofficial shortcut between two officially established routes. They are easy to spot when you know what to look for: a path of flattened grass traversing across a field, a bare patch of dirt cutting the corner between two sidewalks at the local park, or a line in the snow where someone left the established path to get in from the cold that much sooner. Desire paths illustrate where the designs of urban planners deviate from how people actually want to travel.

Too often we act like unresponsive urban planners, setting the predetermined paths for our lives and leaving the Holy Spirit no choice but to create his own desire paths to point us in the direction we should be going. However, there is another way. The Centennial Mall on the campus of the University of Toledo used the snow to track where students made desire paths in winter and then converted them into permanent sidewalks the next spring. Rather than telling God which way we want to go, we can instead invite him to lead the way while we follow close behind. By paying attention to the desire paths set forth in our lives by the Holy Spirit, we can allow ourselves to be shaped and formed more closely into the image of Christ.

It’s important to note that God doesn’t always move in directions we are familiar or comfortable with. Zechariah and Elizabeth were barren until old age so God’s glory might be manifest in John, who would serve as the voice in the wilderness clearing the way for Christ. It was almost certainly not the plan they would have chosen for their lives, but it was the best plan, for them and for the whole of creation. When we allow our own desires to be transformed to more closely match those of God, there is no telling what kind of impact we might have in our communities.

Do you make space for the Holy Spirit to create desire paths in your life – shaping and forming your own desires so they match his – or are you so intent on what you want that you don’t take the time to wait for his input?