A desire path is the trail that pops up on a lawn when enough people take the same shortcut.
“I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” – Galatians 3:2-3
A desire path is the trail that pops up on a lawn when enough people take the same shortcut. If you’ve found yourself tracing a scar of hard-packed dirt across an otherwise green park or placing your boots in the snowy footprints of those who traveled this way before, you were on a desire path.
Despite designers’ best intentions for a space, together, we always find these invisible walkways. It’s as if they were there all along, just waiting for us to discover them.
For me, it’s become a metaphor for grace. In my life I spend a lot of time designing the path to God, building the way of Jesus. I draw the layout, survey the land, pour the concrete…step by step. I am certain that if I labor hard enough, and long enough, and well enough, I will eventually reach my goal. I will work my way to God.
Like those foolish Galatians, having begun this journey in the Spirit, I look to my flesh to bring me across the finish line.
But the joke’s on me. Because, if I will simply look up from wherever I am in my road-making work, there is already a path laid out for me: the shortest distance between God’s heart and mine. It’s as if it was there all along, just waiting for me to discover it.
My soul’s desire, I lay down my way-making tools. Show me the shortcut to you.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.