When life gets chaotic, it is common to look for guidance, direction, planning. Sometimes we just want an easy sign to follow.
The Trail is an allegorical telling of our search for God’s will. Matt & Brenda are struggling with a decision: should they take the job and move to Pasadena? What does God want them to do? They seek direction from Sam, an old firefighter/pastor during a weekend retreat in the mountains. Through the walk, the hike, the struggle to follow the trail and directions, more than simple events unfold. Sam wastes no time explaining his 8 principles of knowing God’s will to the couple, but everyone gains knowledge in the end.
I found the fresh outlay of the eight principles in story format worked well. Although the story was pedantic at times, it drew me from point to point as the characters hiked and talked, and echoed the technique Jesus had of teaching thru parables, or stories. (Matthew 13:34) I liked the character of Sam, the rugged and straight-shooting firefighter-turned-preacher, for his clear mind, tender heart, and encouraging spirit. He felt believable to me, especially when he revealed his own shortcomings and struggles. The couple seemed perfect at first, Matt an edgy accountant, out for facts, details, speed and accuracy. His struggles would be internal, and tension mounts when they conflict with his wife, Brenda, his tender-hearted helpmeet. I thought the resolution of their conflict a bit forced, (especially the urging of Sam for Brenda to offer quick forgiveness to Matt for a major indiscretion), but the continued reminders to seek God’s truth in His Word were refreshing. In the end, whether a big decision, such as forgiveness, or the smaller matter of which job offer to take, framing the question in these principles will help with perspective, and Godly choices.
The book is written by Ed Underwood, a self-stated radical follower of Jesus, and pastor for Church of the Open Door. Underwood states that you must be in God’s general will (established principles any Jesus-follower can glean from the Scriptures for what we are to be doing), before searching for further personal guidance. He does not clarify these principles, which could confuse a new believer. He simply describes being in God’s general will as intimacy with God, a daily effort. Though Underwood does not get technical, or theological, he does outlay a lot of Scripture to back up his principles. Sam seems to be a fount of Biblical references, and requires the couple read verses linked to each point. I think the message is written to those who need a fresh look on an old question: What does God want me to do? The answer Underwood gives is held in a story that will keep you pondering long after you finish these pages.