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  • Aileen McKernan

Rivanna Romp and The Father's Heart

I’ve circled the city many times on this the Rivanna Trail, a 20+ mile hidden gem of a public trail system that meanders seamlessly in and out and along a multitude of rivers, creeks, meadows, mountains, and backyards around the hustle and bustle of my Charlottesville. I’ve walked, ran, praised the Lord, and prayed on different sections of the trail throughout the different seasons of my 10 years living here. There is comfort each time I take to the trail. Each eyes’ gaze becomes a portal to access and savor layers of memories and experience as I go. Despite the familiarity to me, the RT has an unnerving quality about it as well. It is easy to get lost on it! I know because I have!

I happened to be running one of the most confusing sections of the trail this morning, from UVA Police Station to Fontaine Research Park. This portion of the RT sits in the shadow of McCormick Observatory and is squeezed between those mountain peaks and the 29 bypass as it comes into town and is crisscrossed by unmarked trails seemingly at every twist and turn. It is a section I don’t have any experience running on. I’ve walked it through forwards and backwards many times with the latest just a few short months ago. But as I took to the trail this morning, even as I banked on my previous experiences I couldn’t help but be on guard and not overstep any confidence due to the constant onslaught of cross trails.

Despite my intense focus in the natural, as is often the case on these runs, the eyes of my heart shifted towards some deeper application of what was happening. Finding my way on this voyage reminded me of something that happened a little over four years ago. I was sitting in a room full of strangers who were staring at me and reading my spiritual mail in the name of Jesus for deliverance and breakthrough because my life and road map was as twisted and convoluted as the many trails I was traversing today. And it was so much as said so.

“You are like a mouse in a maze. You are scrambling around, getting fatigued and frustrated, you keep banging into dead ends. You are discouraged and almost lifeless. You can not find your way out,” a team member read off of her paper (they wrote down their words so there could be doubt they weren’t copying each other and that the participant would have a record of the deliverance session).

Another followed from his own notes, “You are like in a forest of trees and you are running. You actually have no knees, the more you run, the more tired you get, you can not get anywhere. You can not find your way out.”

As they went around the room breaking the silence of their stares, I knew they were hearing from the Spirit of God. I wept as I was seen. They were describing how I felt my whole life. Lost. Confused. Stuck. Running around in vain. Having some sense or awareness of purpose and destiny but unable to find my way. Physical Therapist. Health Educator. Natural Medicine Doctor. Public Health Worker. Minister. I could never patch all the pieces together, see the forest from the trees, or find my way into becoming all these different pieces that were at work within me. It was an internal war, what to do, how to become. I had some sort of a compass but felt like I was navigating by the stars on a stormy night for most of my life.

So much so that a month after the retreat I was on, I had already planned to quit my job as a PT and go back to school to become an ordained minister! Yep. They were seeing me alright.

I couldn’t help but think of that experience as I was running through the woods this morning and think not just of myself and how I felt, but also to think of you all. How many of you have felt that way at different times and different seasons in your life? Stuck? Banging up against a dead end? Unsure of the way to go? Frustrated by another plot twist? Unable to see the forest from the trees? Unsure of whether you are on the right path? It is a common experience, so much so, I think that’s why Jesus made it a point to reveal that part of His nature addresses that issue in our lives.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life, nobody comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 – Jesus’ words)

I am the Way.

The Way.

If I’m honest with myself there have been many times I’ve wished somebody would just tell me what to do, where to go, how to do what I need to do. A clear-cut pathway, a marked trail is all I’ve wanted in my life, because if I just knew the Way, I’d be able to get there!

As I checked my bearings this morning on the trail, I smiled as an RTF trail marker was clearly discernible on one of the trees. There was no doubt I was going the right way. Seeing that sign gave me a sigh of relief, of peace, of comfort. I’m ok. I’m headed in the right direction. I am not lost. My footing is sure.

And that’s what Jesus’ Declaration about Himself does for us. His statement that He is the way, is as bold as one of those emblazoned trail markers. It should stir up peace, comfort, relief. He didn’t leave us alone to navigate the terrain without any assistance. In the same scripture mentioned above, He was preparing His disciples for His death and resurrection. He told them, He was going to go away and going to come back but not to worry because the Way they knew (John 14)! They were like what?! Good old Thomas was like How do we know the way?! Don’t leave us! That’s when Jesus replied that He Himself is the Way.

Implicit in the word Way is that there is a going somewhere! Where did Jesus point His disciples? Where is Jesus pointing us? Where is this road and journey taking us?

Nobody comes to the Father except through me.

The Father.

The path back home. Like prodigals welcomed with a hug on the porch, the experience of walking with Jesus is a movement towards the eternal embrace of the Father’s Love.

We over-complicate things quite a bit in this life. We want to know who, what, when, where, why we were born, what we should be doing, are we doing the right thing? Are we on the right track? Our flesh and insecurities rankle and demand answers, knowledge, information to sooth our fleshly insecurities. And our spirits, our hearts, cry out for what we were truly born for, peace.

The Father’s Porch.


God chose to reveal Himself to humanity via the Father – Son relationship. Through Jesus Christ we can see that the eternal Father is a generous giver. He is always at work to reveal who He is and He is He goes through great lengths to clearly demonstrate His Love. The most quoted scripture in the Bible captures this truth, “For God so Loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The Father is not just talk. He walked the walk, becoming one of us so that there would be no doubt that His unconditional Love came to save us from the lostness of our fallen nature.

The Father can be a particularly difficult word or concept for many. In the confines of our flesh we compare Father to father, our earthy one, often unfairly. We tend to focus more on what was lacking in our relationship with our dad than any benefit we may have or should have received from him because we instinctively know we need something vital and important from our fathers. We are created to be first formed and nurtured and named, given our identity as part of the family, by our Father by God’s divine design, but we are born into a fallen system and we largely don’t know it or are so blinded by it that we fail to see that God the Father’s Love and Word over our life trumps the imperfect (as good as a dad you may have had) nature of our earthly state.

As a result of this natural way of looking at our father’s unfortunately their failures get attributed to God the Father just merely out of mental association Any lack in our lives from our earthly father, we end up resenting God and projecting our Daddy issues on Him. We don’t trust, have authority issues and insecurities and it oozes into our lives in any manner of ways – anxiety, risky behavior, personality disorders, never fully becoming all we are meant to be, never fulfilling our God given destiny because of some distorted perception of God and of ourselves. It can manifest subtly and not so subtly – naturally and spiritually, like the a the extreme example that most violent offenders in the prison system had no father figure at home or even to the lesser extent of someone struggling to trusting God for providing for their needs because their own father was unable to materially provide for the family due to frequent layoffs.

I left the deliverance retreat 4+ years ago a different person. I immediately experienced profound changes in the weeks and months following. I had more peace and more freedom but I still quit my job and I still tried to go to divinity school until I lost my peace last minute and ended up taking a 6 month sabbatical to sit with God and wait, search my heart to find out what was in it and develop a new vision for who I am and how to become me. I wish it was as easy as that. It took another 2+ years before I ended up in another retreat in New Zealand before, the Way became clear, before I could see and meet My Father for who He really is.

And that retreat last summer changed everything. The groundwork had been laid. Years of searching and seeking God for inner healing from wounds of the past, those inflicted by others and those I inflicted upon myself and others out of ignorance, melted in a moment, in the Father’s embrace, on the Father’s front porch. I wept as I hugged a surrogate, or more like as he held on to me. Frank was his name, but He knew the Way and He knew the Truth and He walked in the Father’s Life and He held me as a Father holds a daughter and rocked me back and forth as I received unconditional Love and Acceptance, as I received the gift of my Salvation, a precious moment, a few minutes at most. I didn’t readily let go; the peace was surreal. Waves of Love washed over me and cleansed me from years of confusion and torment and misunderstanding and misgivings and resentments and hatred towards myself and others.

And when I came back, when I landed from that hug I was forever changed. The Way became me. I didn’t have to work at who I was or what I wanted to do anymore. It just bubbled up from within me. JointFit, which was there all along, came into being – a healthy baby. A love child. Progeny. Fruit of the labor of my life in the Lord. Without effort it arrived and it made complete and perfect sense. The Father’s Heart. Peace and Joy.

In Song of Solomon 1 the Shulamite woman is crying out to her bridegroom. She is distraught because touched by His Love she wants desperately to always be in it and to have constant access to Her Lover. She pleads with him, "Tell me where you feed your flock?" It’s more like, "Where are you so I can always find you?" Interestingly He basically answers, "If you do not know, follow the Shepherds."

In Young Love we often need to be led and guided to the wellspring. But as love matures the Way becomes more familiar and more clearly discernible to a seasoned lover.

As I ran the RT trail portion this morning on alert, I also ran a little more confident that the Way I did know, I just followed the RT along the highway until the very end, didn’t get distracted by the cross trails and trusted at the right moment when it loops around the back hill, it’d put me right on Fontaine. This knowledge was the fruit of several traverses through the years. I did not get lost this morning.

And this is the Way with Jesus. Bold Trail Marker. Testifying of unconditional love and acceptance. Leading. Guiding. Holding our hands back to the porch, back to the porch, back to the porch until it becomes our habitation, our confidence, and our resting place of peace, here on earth as it is in heaven, that we can walk by faith and not by sight. It is possible. It is His purpose and it is our Birthright.

May God grant you the gift of knowing His Son as the Way to Him and the peace and joy that comes from the fellowship of being seen, being fully loved and accepted, and being fully at home in the Father’s heart.

For further thought:

  • Have you ever felt lost or confused at a point in your life or walk with the Lord?

  • How did you recover feeling like you were back on the right track?

  • Are there any mentors or believers in your life that helped guide you in times of confusion and difficulty?

  • Are you comfortable with relating to God as a Father?

  • Do you think there are any ways you may associate attributes of your earthly dad to your heavenly Father? Are those positive and helpful associations or negative and destructive? - it could be a mix.

If you’d like prayer or more information on anything I shared, don’t go it alone! As a Health Coach I can listen to you, pray for you, and help lead and guide you to resources to equip and empower you to walk in the freedom and strength you were born for, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

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