It would be a bad idea to go hiking through the woods alone without any idea where you are going. Chances are you’ll get lost or even injured. Hiking with a map or GPS may increase your chances of not getting lost, but you still may stumble across a few pitfalls along the way. But if you were to go with a trail guide, someone who knew the way and had been there before, you’d not only be assured a safer trip, but a more enjoyable experience.
In a lot of ways, the path students are on is like hiking through the woods… in the dark… without a flashlight… or a map… and they’re surrounded by bears… man-eating bears… who are hungry… so very hungry. Some students attempt to navigate this journey by stumbling around in the dark. Others will turn to their peers for help and support, but two lost people wandering around are still lost. According to Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster in their book The Godbearing Life, “what they all need (though few would name it as such) are spiritual guides, caring individuals who have been there or who are at least a little further down the road and able to point the way.”
Being a trail guide for students means helping them along on their journey. As a trail guide, you can caution them about certain dangers, help them avoid potential pitfalls, point out exciting new trails or old trails that have been forgotten, advise them on which way to go, and when they wander off, we help them back on the right path. It’d be easy if we could simply knock them over the head and drag them along the right path, but that’s not our role. As guides, we point to God, but it’s their choice whether to follow or not.
There’s a story told about a man who falls into a deep hole. Another man comes walking by and hears the cries for help. In response, this Good Samaritan jumps down in the hole with the trapped man. In frustration, the trapped man asks, “Why did you do that? Now we’re both trapped.” The other responds, “Yes, but I’ve been here before and I know the way out.” As trail guides for students, we need to think back to what it was like for us to try to navigate through this confusing time and use that knowledge to help them along on their own journey. God himself jumped in hole with us when He sent His son Jesus to walk with us and experience firsthand what we experience, including adolescence. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)