“Walk at your own risk.” Signs emblazoned with these words dot a trail around a nearby office park. On recent sunny days, I’ve put on my headphones, listened to a podcast or guided meditation, and trekked through the woods that contain these warnings. “Walk at your own risk.” I am sure such signage is necessary should someone twist an ankle and want to sue the landowners, but they seem a bit comical to me. Who else am I putting at risk by meandering through this landscape? Squirrels? A bug beneath my feet? And really, how risky is this endeavor? I suppose anything can happen anywhere, but I am not exactly bungee jumping off a bridge.
“Walk at your own risk.” Ok, will do, I thought as I took the next step. But then it occurred to me that I really am not walking at my own risk on this path or ever. The most comforting and best known of the psalms came to mind as I put one foot in front of the other: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thou art with me. As I passed the next admonishment to walk at my own risk, a verse from Psalm 139 surfaced in my consciousness, the one about there being no place I can go where God is not present. “I come to the end—I am still with you,” the psalmist says. The end of the trail, the end of the world, the end of my life, God is still with me, with you, with us.
As these verses floated in and out of my mind I was reminded of our Lenten theme, “Surely, the Lord is in this place.” However, instead of my discovering God’s near presence on my walk in the woods, God seemed to find me, accompanying me as I wandered, offering a word of comfort in signs meant to be a warning. I often find that God speaks in surprising ways, even when I am not all that intentional about listening. All the more evidence of grace.
We never walk at our own risk because God accompanies us. At times, we even follow Christ. No matter where we are, in the beginning or at the end, God is there. When we are on the way Jesus is with us and when we get lost, Jesus seeks and finds us. Goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives, even when we leave to squander our Father’s gifts. That’s the remarkable thing about this journey of faith, it isn’t dependent upon our skill or even our will, it is enveloped in the divine covenant that God upholds even when we fail to do our part. We know this truth because we are on our way to Jerusalem, that place where Jesus risked it all, for the sake of the world.