When I was 12 years old, my youth group went on a picnic/Saturday night fun night in Julian Price Park, off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone, N.C..

While there, we decided that we would go on the trail and walk to the waterfall. The trail itself was 3 miles long, but there was a shorter option, and since it was late in the evening, we concluded that would be the best option for us to take.

As we were walking some of the youth counselors’ kids ran ahead. Because they ran ahead, the counselors ran ahead after them, leaving us behind.

For a while that was not a big deal, we stayed on the trail. We ended up making it to the waterfall. But the problem came when we didn’t know how to get back to the picnic shelter. Should we keep walking forward on the trail we had not yet traveled, or should we turn around and go back?

Like most 12 – 15-year-olds we weren’t very conscious of time, therefore none of us had watches on. Not to mention this was LONG BEFORE the day of smart phones! We had no concept of what time it was and how much longer it would be daylight. Also, we had no idea of actually how far we had walked, and someone concluded that if we turned around and walked back the way we came, we would end up walking the same distance because they believed we had walked halfway.

So we continued on the trail, moving ahead. After a short time darkness fell. As it gradually became darker we started holding on to one another’s hands, joining together like a fence. That kept us all together. But once it became completely dark, we realized that regardless of how “linked” we were with one another, none of us knew the best way out. We could no longer see the trail, limbs from trees were smacking us in the face, and periodically the people in the front would trip over a root. Each time the people in front of us hit an obstacle those following could avoid it. It made it easier for the end of the line, but a nightmare for those leading the way.

We walked for two hours linked together AND falling together. (I personally was afraid of bears finding us before we found civilization, but luckily there were no bears that day!)

Finally, amidst the darkness, we could hear voices calling our names. As soon as we heard that we immediately all began yelling back, “Here we are!” After we yelled, we would wait in silence, hoping to hear them call us again. Eventually after much yelling, listening, following, then yelling again, we found our way to our counselors. Ultimately we had been on the trail for four and a half hours, lost for at least 3 of those. Needless to say we were all exhausted, cold, and recovering from being quite scared.

The way we finally found our way out of the darkness was by following the voices of those who were our leaders. Much like how we are called to live out this life, following the voice of the ultimate leader.

In The Shack Papa is in the kitchen and calls out to Mack, “Just follow my voice.”

This was a voice of love, acceptance, and ultimate goodness. There was no judgment associated with the voice, no condemnation. No “you aren’t good enough.” The voice offered Mack a safe place of unconditional love.

That same voice offers those same things to us today! The problem is our internal voices are often times too loud and drown out the voice of God as revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. Maybe we can focus on the voice of God calling out to us telling us we are loved.

That is the voice we need to follow.

John 10: 14 – 18

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”