Categories : A Culture of Listening Listening to God


“Didn’t he say ‘Sempre dritta.’? This doesn’t seem very straight to me.”

My husband and I were lost in the Italian heartland, headed for a meeting with a client (this was several years ago, when our jobs involved overseas travel). Our GPS led us into someone’s driveway, and when I asked an elderly gentleman for directions, he smiled knowingly and told me to keep going, “Sempre dritta.” (always straight).

Of course that wasn’t possible. There were switch backs, hairpin turns, and dozens of offshoot roads that seemed to follow a straighter course. My American brain wanted “straight” to mean “straight”. But we’d been lost in Italy enough times to know that “dritta” isn’t always about geometry. When it comes to driving, it means “continue on the same road, no matter what.”

Fast forward to last year. We were living in Israel, struggling to find housing for our family. No one would rent to a family of seven for a short term, or agree to a long term lease until we got our papers. For the first time in my life, I packed up everything we owned without knowing where we would sleep that night.

Being unable to answer the kids’ questions or reassure them was traumatic for me as a mom. Minutes before we had to leave our apartment to make room for the next tenant, my husband found another place we could rent…for only 5 nights. We breathed a shallow sigh of relief, knowing we’d have to begin the search all over again as soon as we got settled.

Fast forward again. We’re living in a farmhouse in rural Minnesota. One year to the day after that experience in Israel, we got a call saying we needed to move out as soon as possible. That phone call transported me mentally back to Israel, feeling that same panic and dread again.

That’s the backdrop for my puzzling over these words:

“…He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

I say puzzling, because this specific Hebrew word for “path” (there are several) has a circular or cyclical aspect to it.  It pictures a circular groove that’s been worn over time.  Which wouldn’t be so surprising, except this word for “righteousness” also means “straight”. It goes deeper:

This word that we translate “righteousness” (there are multiple Hebrew words for that concept) is  צדק, (pronounced (tseh’-dek). The צ represented a person lying hidden on their side. It could also signify the side wall of a fortress. ד represented a door, a tent flap, or the lifting and lowering of the flap to enter and exit the tent. And the ק represents the sun on the horizon, the cycle of rising and setting, or a gathering (the way the light of the sun seems to gather or concentrate at the horizon).

צדקMy American brain still wants ‘straight’ to be ‘straight’. It wants righteousness to be evident. But this word for “righteous”, or “straight” suggests cycles. Going out and coming in. Raising and lowering. Circling.

And there’s an aspect of hiddenness. This isn’t the kind of righteousness you get trophies for. It keeps a low profile. With this understanding of these Hebrew terms, we could try out a translation like this:

“He leads me straight, in a circular path, to a hidden side door, again and again, for His name’s sake.”

Suddenly, the path we’ve been on makes sense.

Except for the part about His name’s sake.

After we got the call, I cried out to God, “How is this good for your reputation? Why would you do this to us for the sake of your name?”

I’d been harboring resentment about the way He’s led us. It took Him bringing me full circle, back to the pain, for me to embrace the truth. Staring that pain in the face, I realized He wasn’t leading us that way for His own reputation at our expense. “For His name’s sake” can also mean, “because of who He is”. He leads us this way because He’s the perfect parent. He brought me “back” here so I could go “forward” more whole.

My Israeli brain is beginning to grasp the difference between being stuck in a cycle of futility, and being led in a cycle of increasing healing, understanding, and intimacy (even though they can feel similar). Futility fails to embrace who God is, or join what He’s doing. When God leads, every time we repeat the cycle, it’s new… because we’re new.  There’s a depth of maturity we couldn’t access last time around. It’s not a waste of time. My wholeness, your wholeness, it’s worth circling back for.

I’m learning to hear, “Sempre dritta…keep going straight” and understand, “Stay the course, in spite of the twist and turns.”

What twist and turns has God used to reveal Himself to you?







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  • Arlene in Canada

    Thank you for these insights!! I have witnessed in my life that I need to circle/cycle back until I have fully learned the lessons God has for me. Right now I am cycling thru lessons on loving my husband and finding new balance in my marriage since his health has deteriorated and he has had 3 little strokes. The strong, capable man who was my soul-mate, lover and best friend now prefers to stay home, can look after himself and some routines abut the house but is moody, has lost emotional depth, patience, problem-solving. We do have good days and things we enjoy together. I have taken over running of the house and organizing our lives. I have felt every emotion of grieving but I cant stay there! As I cycle back, God has granted me mercy to find love and a depth of peace in our new way of living, understanding for widows and others who are in similar health situations. I can minister to them as a parish nurse in ways I could not have before. I have had to ask for help from our community and family and stop denying anything is wrong. I was surprised at the relief this way. Each step has brought new maturity and grace. We are good! My impatience is being replaced with deep love and care as I learn to pray for my husband better and take better care of myself. We are happy. Its only taken me 10 years to get to this place!!!

    • mlekallio

      Wow, Arlene, your testimony is amazing. I’m feeling challenged as I read your words. I hear the depth of loss, but I also hear so much humility, and resilience. Thank you so much for sharing this example of how a difficult path can still be redemptive. Thanking God for you!

  • Marcia

    Hannah, thank you for this!!!! Honestly I read it when you first posted and I had to take pause because I’ve been traveling in circular paths that frustrated me but drew me closer and took me deeper in God. I had no idea that cries for his presence would guarantee a circular path for me make me dig deeper into my soul examining the root cause of many things to my frustration. Hmmmmm …..just thought I was on a slow track. Thank you fir enlightening.

    • mlekallio

      For so many years, I lamented being on the slow track, and seemed to be going nowhere. But I had a false sense of what progress was. I don’t claim to have everything all figured out, but understanding God’s cyclical way of working in my life has given me a measure of peace I never had before. Believing for that same peace and more for you. Your are not forgotten or forsaken!

      • Marcia Bailey

        Grabbing on to those words not forsaken or forgotten! This circular path is a gut wrenching one for me. But I’m determined not to respond or react from my pain, leaning hard on him.

        • mlekallio

          I feel that. For what it’s worth, you need to know that even from a distance, it’s evident that nothing about this path He’s leading you on is futile. You are growing in grace and truth. You are being made new. You are worth this. All of it.

          • Marcia Bailey

            ❤️❤️❤️ Thank you for your work! Your insight, and words are making a difference in lives. You have helped me…more than you ever may know my sister. Strength and grace to you.

          • mlekallio

            You are a tremendous blessing to me Marcia! Thank you.

  • Gabriela

    Dear Hannah – how do these revelations come to you?!
    Never would of thought of any path being circular as my focus has always been and thought it needed to be straight, don’t look to the left or right just go straight and keep going. You are stretching my preconceived notions on how God leads us and……………..
    You make me want to study Hebrew. ❤️
    Sending love from another desert.

    • mlekallio

      Gabriela, I never would have thought of it either! Sometimes revelation does come to me…other times, I go to it. I ask the Holy Spirit to pique my curiosity . This was one of those times where I went to a lexicon to find out which Hebrew word was used, and then I got curious about the word for “righteousness”, and when I started looking into it, there was this whole new understanding. My husband helped by connecting what I was finding in the word studies with our “sempre dritta” experience. I wrestled with it for a while, to be honest, because it was stretching me too. I’m thankful that, as He’s stretching us, we’re also being brought together, even across oceans.

      • Gabriela

        You know Hannah the more I think about this the more it makes complete sense. We don’t live life with blinders on, we are continually moving, forward, backward, sideways and then sometimes and a lot of times back around again. Like circling that mountain in the wilderness over and over till all has been taught and revealed. Honestly, you should lead a study.
        You always pique my curiosity We are to sharpen each other like iron and spur each other on…and you do those both – very well.
        These days I definitely feel like I’m going around in circles as some issues keep resurfacing in our family. So many things I’d like to do and it seems the enemy keeps sending roadblocks – I feel like I’m wading through mud.
        Hugs Hannah and trusting that all falls into place with God’s agenda for your life and your family. You are AMAZINGGGGG!! xox

        • mlekallio

          Gabriela, I’m really sorry things are so murky right now.that feeling can be so soul-crushing. This is the only drawback of online friendships: I wish you were closer so I could give you a hug!
          If I led a study, what topic would you want to see? (I have something cooking, but I’m always interested in hearing your thoughts) I’m listening for the intersection between what God is stirring in me, and what other people are looking for. Shalom, dear one!

          • Gabriela

            O Hannah….thank you. We did say one day soon in Jerusalem. As for topics that’s a great question and one I’ll pray about. I think anything that God may be stirring and leading your heart towards would be worthy of study. The word “intersection” is giving me some visual. I find most of us women are always looking for that what’s next Lord, where and how shall I turn and how can I be sure it’s your voice I hear beckoning me forth and not my grandiose versions of godliness. I could be babbling right now since I’ve been up since 4 am and working on my second Latte but somehow I think you hear me.
            Bless you dear friend and Shalom to you as well💕
            Thanks for listening and thanks for responding.

          • mlekallio

            Gabriela, You’re right, that question of “How can I be sure it’s your voice?” looms large for so many of us. As always, I value your insights and friendship. Shalom (even in these days of unrest) to you.

  • Jana Craft

    Hannah, your words are so timely for me right this very minute. The part about circling back for wholeness… I can’t even. You have no idea what this post means to me today. Thanks for your insight.

    • mlekallio

      Jana, I so glad God knows, and meets us both in it. I’m taking a stand for your wholeness, because I know you’re an agent of healing for many, many women…if I feel this strongly about it, imagine how passionate God must be?

  • Gina

    Hannah what a timely post for our family yet again. We have been seeking the Father over the past 4 years for direction and have had to move every year. During this time we have wondered what has been going on and have we missed the Father’s way as we seemed to be going round in circles but as we looked back God has freed us from fear and brought healing from childhood trauma. He has taught us to trust in him wholeheartedly not in man. He can sustain us no matter where he leads. Our journey is definitely in cycles but as you say, we are different as our Father frees us, heals us and continues to change us into his likeness.
    Thank you so much for sharing your walk with us. May you know his presence every step of the way.
    Shalom x

    • mlekallio

      Gina, Thank you so much for sharing your own experience of being led (seemingly in circles) by God. I teared up reading your comment. I’m so thankful that you’re giving glory to God for how He has healed you, freed you, and taught you to trust more deeply. Thanks for being real here, and amen to knowing His presence every step of the way! Shalom to you and yours.

  • Melinda

    Your faith is inspiring and your thoughts profound! He never said our paths would be straight; just righteous if aligned with His character. As the cells in our bodies regenerate constantly, so will our faith as He brings us around and around again to where we need growth, as any loving father would do, as our paths grow more straight and narrow headed for His throne. His wholeness is definitely worth it!

    • mlekallio

      Melinda, I love how you brought the cycles in our bodies into the discussion. That’s a great point, thank you!

  • LaToya

    Hannah, this was an insightful post. It is very fitting for my life right now. I too have been asking God why am I going through “this”again? As I pray for wholeness, I will pray the same for you. Blessings

    • mlekallio

      Thank you LaToya. You’re such a kindred spirit, and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and experiences here. And thanks for your prayers!