The Praying Life: Seeking God in All Things by Deborah Smith Douglas

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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Set up waymarks for yourself, make yourself guideposts; consider well...the road by which you went.
—Jeremiah 31:21

My husband is an avid hiker and outdoorsman who never seems to get lost in the wild. One of his techniques for orienting himself (which he has tried without much success to teach me) is to turn around from time to time to see how the landscape looks going the other way. That way it will look familiar on his return. He considers well, as Jeremiah put it, the road by which he has gone.

It strikes me as significant, this emphasis on noticing retrospect on our journeys. Scripture reminds us steadily that not only are we to keep looking ahead, but we must also look back occasionally, to learn not only where we are but how we got there.

Sometimes we can only see the pattern in our lives by looking back, only discern the meaning of an experience by returning to it in memory. As T. S. Eliot put it in “Dry Salvages” in his Four Quartets:

We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience in a different form

Reflecting back on our journeys during periods of Sabbath rest or during a retreat can shed great light on where we have been, and can show us much about why we are where we are at the moment. 

If we make a prayerful habit of such “consideration of the road by which we have gone,” we can indeed begin to set up waymarks and guideposts for ourselves—not only to help us find the way back, but perhaps to see where we took a wrong turn, where we stepped off the path, so that we might avoid such mistakes in the future.

Periodic prayerful retrospection can also show us times and places where we very nearly slipped from an unexpected precipice, and thereby allow us a chance to be grateful to God for rescuing us.

So often, dear Lord, we have experiences but miss their meanings. Help us to set up guideposts for ourselves, that we may see how we have come and how we might faithfully continue on our way.

Copyright ©2005 Deborah Smith Douglas.