Walking the Straight Paths


“But there in a secluded part of Burundi with an oppressed minority group, walking toward a well that will change their lives in more ways than I can tell, I saw the verses in a new light.”

By Leigh Kramer | Twitter: @hopefulleigh

Leigh-1My steadfast companions kept my hands firmly grasped in theirs. They couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old but the two girls walked with determination. They knew this land; I did not.

The community of Bubanza swelled around us as we walked toward the source of the well. We’d started out dancing and celebrating at the tap, a lifesource. Now we meant to see how the well came to be. Because it is a “Super Well,” solar powered and dug down deep beneath the surface, the source was some distance away.

The girls held my hands with a tight grip. Sometimes we’d swing our arms or I’d let my eyes stray from the bumpy path to their faces and we’d smile at each other. They asked questions in tentative English—what was my name? What was dangling from my ears? What was the word for this item?

Verdant green grass contrasted the muddy glen. The path meandered and curved, up and down, this way and that. At certain points, the ground split and the crowd would divide for a moment until we reconvened.

And then we suddenly came to a stop, everyone pooling around the Communities of Hope leaders and looking at the shallow, would-be river blocking the path. I looked at the murky water and couldn’t see a way around it. I looked up toward the Super Well site and wondered how we’d make it. It was still far away.

We pressed on. The people of Bubanza stepped through the water, while our mostly Western group walked on the edges, in the grass, in the mud. My feet got wet.

At one point, the path careened upward but there was not room for the girls and me to walk together. I held their hands forward, indicating my wish that they go ahead of me but they shook their heads no until I went first instead. The path grew more complicated. We weren’t hiking in similar conditions, but I began to long for the clearly marked trails of the Grand Canyon, where I’ve hiked twice. This was off-roading at its most creative.

We’d walk a ways and I’d see we were moving ever closer to our destination. I couldn’t focus on the Big Picture. I took it one step at a time, one section of the path at a time. It was enough.

As the path twisted and turned, the girls excitedly showed me where to go. Step up this way, here, the path is here, now go this way a bit. All communicated with gestures and the gist of a language I couldn’t understand.

In that moment, Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) came to mind. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” (Verses do not often spring to my mind. Memorization has never been my strong suit. In fact, I likely only remembered this one because of a Sunday School song.)

I’m not much of a fan of those verses. People have looked at the twists and turns of my life and concluded that I must not have truly trusted God. Otherwise these things would have happened and those things would not have happened. It’s poor theology, I know now, but it’s all around us.

But there in a secluded part of Burundi with an oppressed minority group, walking toward a well that will change their lives in more ways than I can tell, I saw the verses in a new light. A straight path does not necessarily mean it will be easy.

The path toward the “Super Well” was not literally straight but we made it there just the same. The girls showed me the way to go and I trusted they knew better than I. This was their land, this was their well, this was their lives.

A year from now I’ll be making big decisions about where to work, where to live, what to do. Sitting where I am now, I don’t have any idea what that will look like. The Big Picture is alternately exciting and terrifying.

But I can take it one step at a time. I don’t need an exact plan sent down from heaven. I can make the next best decision. I can trust God has equipped me to make good decisions. The path between now and next year may be a winding one. I may end up in unexpected places along the way. My feet might get wet and that will be OK.

I am learning and growing in the process. I am saying yes to change and being open to the unknown. I am walking on the path.


About Leigh:

Bio picture 120Leigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee with only fried pickles for comfort, quit steady job as a social worker to chase that dream of writing at last, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. She is a contributor at A Deeper Family. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at LeighKramer.com and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.