Well-worn paths *

"Pathlike" road in Iowa, 1997

"Pathlike" road in Iowa, 1997

I have a fondness for certain kinds of roads - windy, hilly, black-topped ones that thread through countrysides.  Roads like these exude the character of the places they traverse.  Still, roads are not paths. Paths are different.

Agrarian author Wendell Berry offers a lush perspective about paths vs. roads that remains stuck in my mind since the moment I read it.

“The difference between a road and a path is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit the comes with knowledge of a place.  It is a sort of ritual of familiarity.  As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape….

A road, on the other hand, even the most primitive road, embodies resistance against the landscape. Its reason is not simply the necessity of movement, but haste. Its wish is to avoid contact with the landscape; it seeks so far as possible to go over the country, rather than through it;”

By Berry’s definition these roads I like are not paths at all so I exercise my writer’s license to declare my roads that snake “respectfully” through their countrysides as well-worn paths that pavement was applied to. I certainly experience considerable relaxation when turning onto a road like this from a highway or freeway that I have no fondness for at all.

Rural northern Michigan features my best encounters of these path-like roads. The Road Report Journal banner is one of those, a stretch of M-88 in Antrim County.

I have enjoyed 27 northern Michigan encounters during an annual “Boys Weekend” with my brothers.  These weekends harken to Berry’s description of a path as “little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place.” Our Boys Weekend is a convening of brothers that has become a habit, a ritual of encountering each other in a certain place.

The rituals of my relationship with the Lord define perhaps the most-worn path in my life, so heavily tread that pavement could certainly be applied to it.  Its place is more a setting where practices occur such as dedicated time with God, reading Scripture, journaling, and prayer.

I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
— Psalm 130:6, NIV

From this well-worn path go many trails into my days. This writing is one of those trails, exploratory offerings of learnings gleaned on the path.  My hope and prayer is to convey the sense of God’s intentional caring, his merciful, graceful presence encountered here on my path that speaks to you on your path.

Well-worn paths may yield extraordinary benefits from the mere frequency and persistence of traveling occurring on them.

You were tired out by the length of your road
Yet you did not say, ‘ It is hopeless.’
You found renewed strength,
Therefore you did not faint.
— Isaiah 57:10, NASB

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, And in His word do I hope. (Psalm 130:5, NASB)

It seems that the wisest people I know travel many well-worn paths with God.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge
— Proverbs 1:7a, NIV



1) * Edited re-post of "Well-worn paths" originally published as a Road Report at FarmingtonGlenn.net on January 27, 2015

2) Wendell Berry quote from his book, “The Art of the Commonplace” page 12