Paths of kindness and truth

Tales From the Unending Story

May 18, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 10
Joshua Penfold | Columnist
(flickr photo by AJ)

I grew up believing that God’s will was specific. God had a plan for my life and I was either living faithfully along that path or veering from it.

It wasn’t necessarily defiant disobedience that caused one to fall off the path. I feared that even a faithful attempt to follow God could result in a wrong turn if I hadn’t been attuned closely enough to the Lord’s will. Sure, God was gracious and would welcome me back like the father of the prodigal son, but you had to return, and it often felt like a kind of elusive poorly marked trail that was easy to wander off if you did happen to find yourself on it occasionally.

Over the years my understanding has shifted. When my wife and I were dating I spent a year traveling with Canadian Mennonite University’s School of Discipleship (Outtatown) program. The following year, after getting engaged, I spent another year away from Rebecca while at Briercrest College in rural Saskatchewan. Those two years being physically away from one another tested our relationship, strengthened our communication skills, and bore many new friendships.

During these years, though my commitment to Rebecca remained steadfast, I realized that if Rebecca and I had not been dating, there were some other people I had met that I could imagine a life with. There was never any concern in my mind about the security of my relationship with Rebecca, it just made me question the idea that there is “the one” that God has willed for me. The path with Rebecca is the path I chose, and continue to choose, but maybe it wasn’t the only God-honouring path.

There have been verses like “delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) which have further encouraged me that perhaps life is less about pursuing God’s very specific will for your life and more about pursuing God, then discovering that in doing so your desires and God’s will become one beautifully entwined byproduct.

All these thoughts bubbled up from reading Psalm 25:10: “All the Lord’s paths are kindness and truth for the keepers of his pact and his precepts.” The word “paths” is plural. I’m not sure if this verse alone is enough to argue for the plurality of paths held within the will of God, but it has nonetheless, along with other verses, thoughts and experiences along the way, helped to reshape my earlier theology of God’s one specific will and my one specific path of obedience.

I now find myself less worried about trying to meticulously keep on the one right path of a transcendent and omniscient God, and more in awe of the breadth of God’s grace, the ability for God to use not just my faithfulness but also transform my blunders and even disobedience into glory. I’ve often been afraid of casting the net too wide, of being too inclusive of things outside of God’s will and God’s way, but I’m starting to laugh at myself . . . to think that I was worried about being more gracious, inclusive, hospitable and liberal than God.

Richard Rohr argues that when rooted in God, everything belongs. I’m still working that out, but I think it fits well with “delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” as well as “All the Lord’s paths are kindness and truth.” A life of holy contemplation and delighting in God’s kindness and truth need not fear stepping out of God’s will, it is the path itself. 

Joshua Penfold lives in New Hamburg, Ontario and can be reached at

Read more Tales from the Unending Story:
What more could I want?
Within a shadow of doubt
A shielded sleep
When inadequate is enough
Soil lover

(flickr photo by AJ)

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