In the Woods: A Parable
By Pastor Louis Prontnicki
Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Once there was a group of adventurous people hiking and camping through a very remote wilderness region. Though it would have easy to lose their way in the dense forest, their trusted guide and leader had a compass, a GPS, and a map, to keep them on track. For the first few days they made good progress in the woods, relying on the directions their guide gave them. But soon a few of the campers began complaining about how restrictive and narrow the guide’s directions were. “We want to go wherever our deeply held internal sense of direction tells us to go!” They rebuked their leader for his narrow point of reference: “We don’t need you telling us which way is north and what compass point to follow! We think we ought to express ourselves in any way we want to, without any GPS or map telling us which path to go on.”
Soon this small band became so argumentative that others in the group felt they had to give in to their demands, even though their thinking was counter to the accepted ways of establishing direction. So the veteran guide was sent packing, and the vocal few who had hijacked the group started giving the orders. They smashed the compass, threw away the GPS, and burned the map. “Now we are free to go wherever we want to. And no one is allowed to criticize any direction that anyone takes. All paths are equally valid and true.”
A few people raised their concern that these ways of orienting yourself could lead to getting lost and wandering hopelessly in the forest, but they were branded as alarmists.
Soon some people declared that the sun rose in the west and set in the east. Others, secretly desiring to know which way to go, began identifying themselves as trees. They taped leaves to their arms, stood still, and hoped that moss might grow on one side of them. Pointing to the north. Still others, getting hungry, categorized themselves as mountain lions, which they claimed gave them the right to prey upon other members of the group.
All of this meant that no one really knew the right direction out of the wilderness or how to get home. But the new leaders of the group said that was okay, because the experience of the journey was the important issue, not arriving anywhere. But as the days went on, the group ran desperately low on food, water, and morale. They were lost, but no one was allowed to admit it.
One night, two friends noticed that there was one star that stayed in the same place in the sky all night. “Isn’t that the North Star? If it is, then we can know where north is, and from there we can figure out a way out of the forest.” But when they shared this insight with the leaders, they were rebuked: “How dare you presume to know which direction is north! How intolerant of you to say one direction is correct, implying that all the other people’s sense of direction is wrong! How judgmental!” The leaders branded these narrow minded friends as “Northists,” and told them they were not allowed to speak of their theory to anyone. In contrast to the “Northists,” the rest of the group generously thought of themselves as the “All-Encompassing Ones,” embracing all points on the compass – except any notion of a true north, of course.
Another person, after watching a beautiful sunset, recalled being told as a child that the sun set in the west. “If that is true” she thought, “then the opposite direction would the east, where the sun rises, and therefore we can know which way to go, to get out of the wilderness.” But when she shared this reasonable concept with the leaders, they chastised her for her bias and bigotry. “How do you think that will make those who are oriented to the sun rising in the west feel? We can’t have them feeling left out!” The end result of this new thinking was that the group never made it out of the wilderness. They wandered in circles, celebrating their “all–encompassing” freedoms, starving and dehydrated, until they all died in the forest.
Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”