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The Trailblazer

by Tim O'Hearn

Most of us have known trailblazers in our time. Those are the people who “boldly go where no man has gone before.” They step out and lead, without looking back to see if anyone is following. They take risks so others won’t have to. Sometimes they have a goal, at other times just a dream.

If they are going to blaze a trail, then they have to mark it for those who will follow. Sometimes they mark it just so they can find their own way back. Two trailblazers immediately come to my mind. The first is Daniel Boone. He is perhaps the one person most responsible for the spread of white settlers into the interior of what is now the United States. He found a trail west and marked it so that anyone could follow. Generally, Daniel Boone would leave a mark to follow. Often it was painted on a rock. Many times he marked the trail by cutting a large piece of bark from a tree trunk. This would leave the inner wood showing, in a white blaze. As I heard it growing up, this is how the word trailblazer originated. Anyone following Mr. Boone’s path even years later could know they were on the right path.

The other trailblazer I think of met a less glorious fate than Daniel Boone. I don’t know his last name. The fairy tale just calls him Hansel. He and his sister decided to blaze a trail into a deep forest. Even though his father, according to some versions of the story, was a woodcutter, he did not use tools to mark his trail. Instead he used breadcrumbs. Granted, he did not intend for anyone to follow him, but hoped to use them to find his way back if necessary. Unfortunately, birds and beasts eat breadcrumbs. When they did so, Hansel lost his way. As a result he spent some time in a cage and was almost Sunday dinner.

There are two other trailblazers. One of them leads us down the path using breadcrumbs of sin. Pretty soon we have lost our way. Then Satan puts us in a cage and fattens us up for roasting. The trouble is, he is smarter than the witch in “Hansel and Gretl.” He won’t be tricked into taking our place in the oven. The oven was built for him, (Matt 25:41) but we may accompany him into it.

The other trailblazer leads us on a path to a glorious place. Like Daniel Boone, he has blazed the trail so that people can follow him many years later. Jesus promised that he would blaze a trail. Not only that, he said he would be the trail he blazed.

In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. (Jn 14:2, 4-6)

The Greek language doesn’t have a word equivalent to trailblazer. They do, though, have a word for the same concept. Since a trailblazer is a pioneer, one who goes somewhere before anyone else, the Greek equivalent might be the word “forerunner.” This is the word the writer of Hebrews uses to describe Jesus. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” (Heb 6:19-20)

That just leaves a question for you. Do you want to follow a Hansel, or a Daniel Boone?

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