After our long walk on the ledge, Todd and I meandered along the inner wood trails—the guts of the forest. Nearly naked they were, the trees having shed their garments of leaves, bare and vulnerable facing winter winds and snow blankets coming. Earth floor carpeted in dry and dead, I dragged my feet because I wanted to hear the crunch and swish of leaves over my boots, which annoyed my husband who wanted some quiet. I acquiesced for just a few steps. And then I just couldn’t help it. I started dragging my feet again.
There was such beauty in the sound of death, I thought, here in the woods—such an awesome awareness of the season’s purpose—of God’s purpose who created each—where leaves shed and nothing remains hidden by green anymore. There is such truth to be learned in fallen trunks—dead trees—giving their lives for other new lives—like fungi—and moss—and the feeding of new saplings soon to sprout from seeds spread in warmer times.
The woods shows us all, holding nothing back—all the young and old—the living and dead—the broken and strong—the blocked paths that must be considered. Do I climb over? Do I crawl under? Do I go around? Do I turn and go back, telling my soul to retreat? So many decisions in the woods—in this life.
I don’t want to make a move without my Lord directing my steps. Sometimes I have found myself paralyzed with good intentions, but really, my paralysis has been due to my lack of faith that God is bigger than any mistake I could make. And I’m not proud to say I’ve been too proud, too much of a rebel to follow God sometimes—especially when it’s painful—not quite believing He is always good.
But now, I’m venturing deeper into the wood, daring to engage with the God who created all this wonder in nature—all this awe in humanity—and I’m daring to take steps—even taking steps where the world posts signs like the one we saw:
TRAIL CLOSED DUE TO STANDING WATER.
We dared to be rebels that day. We dared to break the world’s rule. We dared to walk on though warned, to see what lay ahead and then decide if we should turn back or proceed.
. . . I told God once, long ago, I wanted to go the distance with Him, wherever the path might lead, whatever He decided my soul required for heaven’s readiness . . .
We came upon the standing water as warned. I was prepared. My boots were waterproofed to the knee. But the standing water was over a foot deep and my husband’s hiking boots rose only to his ankles. He had to slow himself and plant each step carefully. I forged straight through and the waters did not overcome my boot rims. He took a more meandering route, avoiding the deeper parts and kept his feet dry as well. I waited and encouraged.
“You’re almost there. You’ve passed the deepest part. It’s clear where I am now. Keep going.”
We had to slow. We had to take our time. He had to walk out of his way to progress. I walked straight through. And we both came out on the other side—me with photographs I wouldn’t have captured had I not ventured in—had we not dared to ignore human advice or trust that somehow, someway, we would make it through the flood. I helped him on that stretch of the path. He helped me on others. That’s what people should do—help each other along in life, yes?
These paths we take, even the meanderings we make? They are soul lessons for those who want to learn. And they all have their own beauty, if we’ll but open our eyes and look, even as we navigate our obstacles and floods, even if sometimes they slow us down—or worse.
New life emerges from the broken. New life rises from the dying and the dead.
There are always these cycles in life. Death and life. Dying and resurrection.
What has died in me? What is dying still? What has been born? What remains to be birthed?
I find myself in a continuous dying process—the dying to self—the dying to having to have life turn out the way I wanted—the way I expected—the way I hoped. Life hasn’t given me the expected or the hoped in many ways I’ve deemed important and meaningful.
I have grieved. Hard. I still grieve. Less. But I’m not done.
And there’s no getting around this truth—loss hurts. It’s not supposed to feel good. But in can BE good.
Because when God allows us to lose something, He has a holy plan for REPLACING something—for GROWING something—for BIRTHING some new life in us and in those around us.
There is light at the end of the tunnel . . .
And so—I’m noticing. I’m noticing how God has given me a unique path to walk through this life for the purpose of refining me, of growing me up, of helping me learn more deeply what He says in His word and what Blaise Pascal once wrote—that God wants to fill our “God-shaped vacuum [in] the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
God has given me a path marked with obstacles, with times of brokenness and dying. He has allowed me flooded paths, at times, sometimes filled with a torrent of tears, where He has called me to walk THROUGH—not around—not back. He has prepared me to praise Him in ALL circumstances and to realize that my life is not about ME and what I THINK I want and need. My life is about HIM and what He KNOWS I want and need—because HE made me for His glory.
Life is about always believing and trusting that GOD IS GOOD, always, and even the pain He allows is only what He deems necessary to bring about our highest good and His highest glory.
Only God knows the way for each soul. We, His created, just need listen and follow. And when life hurts—sometimes more than we think we can bear—we are to remember that God is STILL good—that He will not only sustain us through our pain and every trial He allows—but He will do even more . . .
Jesus, who knew the greatest human pain possible, knows our pain. Jesus cares. Jesus comforts. Jesus keeps coaxing us on, imploring us to never quit, to never give up, to keep our eyes fixed on His, to lean on Him and His strength—He who overcame the grave and who can and will help us overcome all our “graves”.
God will bring new life out of every death. God will continue to purify and beautify His bride until we are ready to meet Him on that great and wondrous day where He will lift the veil and we will see Him face-to-face, clearly and fully, and realize that all—all—ALL was allowed and done only IN LOVE.
So if we cry in pain this day or some other, know this truth. God hears. God cares.
He hears our cries and He comforts us in our sorrows. But even better, He keeps us going through the woods of our lives—through each birth and death—through each strengthening and weakening—through every flood and over every obstacle. He holds our hand securely. He stabilizes our shaking legs and calms our quaking hearts. He knows our sufferings are necessary graces to save us from the prisons of ourselves—to set us fully free to love and be loved.
When I realize this truth—the never-changing nature of God—always good—always loving—whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts—whose ways are higher than our ways—who am I to tell God how His will should be done in my life or in the life of any other? I am in no other position than to fall humbly to the ground in worship and awe in the presence of the Almighty, Sovereign, Maker and Lover of my soul—of your soul—of each and every soul in this wondrous world He created.
His will WILL be done in every life who lets Him work His greatest miracle—filling us completely with Himself, who is . . .