In golf, when a ball is hit into the woods, it usually spells trouble. Either the player takes a penalty, or they try to drive it out of the briars, leaves, trees, and other obstacles.
Stay out of the woods
I say it to my kids all the time: one because I don’t want them getting lost, two because of deer ticks, and three poison ivy.
In fairy tales, a forest is usually a place of false security. It provides shelter, but unknowns lurk in the shadows. Hansel and Gretel were left in the woods because their parents had no food but discovered a gingerbread house owned by a witch who wanted to eat them. A huntsman hid Snow White in the woods to save her from her wicked stepmother, but it wasn’t long before the witch fed her a poison apple. Little Red Riding Hood strolls through the woods taking a basket of goodies to her grandmother and happens upon a wolf who deceives her and eats Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother for lunch.
Beware the woods.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the beauty of the woods. I take my boys out there for hikes. However, I have a healthy respect for the forest. I stick to the safe areas and to stay on the right path. I know to coat with bug spray and what leaves to avoid.
“The forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.” 2 Samuel 18:8
In 2 Samuel chapters 16 through 18, Absalom had just absconded with the throne. His good looks and politicking at the gate had given him the power he desired, and he used it to send his father, King David, scurrying for the hills. Still riding the high of the win, Absalom sent his men into the woods after David to finish the battle.
Beware the false sense of security.
The woods may seem harmless. It may even offer some protection. The forest was probably the last on Absalom’s list of concerns. That is until his hair got caught on a limb, and he hung there unable to free himself like a lamb waiting for the slaughter. Joab heard of his defenselessness and ran him through with a javelin, despite King David’s instructions not to hurt his son.
What may seem insignificant might lead you down the wrong path.
The acronym is SID, small insignificant decision, and represents something that seems mundane or harmless but over time leads to substantial problems or death. For instance:
Saying, “just this once,” or “no one will know.”
Buying that outfit or electronic device before you have the funds.
Your friends saying, “it’s okay,” but your gut doesn’t.
A little innocent flirting.
One of my favorite sermons on love, sex, and dating by Andy Stanley of Northpoint church discusses the Right Person Myth. Here’s a quick synopsis: A man or woman believes they’ve found Mr. or Mrs. Right and get married. After the honeymoon phase has passed, they wake up to the sound of their crying baby, roll over with morning breath, argue whose turn it is to get up, and start to second guess whether they truly married the right person. Then one day they’re at the gym or work, and the actual Mr. and Mrs. Right shows up. A little innocent flirting leads to them leaving their spouse and marrying the true Mr. or Mrs. Right only to wake up one morning, roll over to their 2nd spouse who also has morning breath, and argue. Rinse and repeat.
If you can’t stay on the path, then stay out of the woods.
We all have weaknesses. It’s good to evaluate them and in those areas give yourself a wide margin. I realize this is easier said than done, but if you struggle with drinking, don’t meet your friends at a bar. If your marriage is having issues, don’t go hanging out with a group of divorcees. If you’re in financial straits, don’t go for a walk in the mall. Keep the margin wide enough that if you slip-up you’re still so far from crossing the line that it’s easy to ask forgiveness and begin again.
Pray for wisdom to see the warning signs way up the road, and the courage to follow the right path.
And, if you have strayed deep into the woods, remember that God is a great redeemer. You can never wander so far that he cannot reach you and draw you back under the shelter of his wings.
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