I love going into God's creation to pray. Somehow being in places relatively untouched by human hands to meet my Creator makes it easier to hear him. It feels a bit like walking into a carpenter's wood shop, or a potters wheelhouse. It's a mess, perfectly in process. Whatever is there is, for the most part, is as it was intended to be.
I went on a hike yesterday (see photo) in one of my favorite places. It's only ten minutes from my house, my dog can run without a leash like its her own backyard, and the hike can take anywhere from an hour to two depending on how quickly I want to walk.
Yesterday was a slow walk.
The trail was unbelievably muddy due to the recent spike in temperature. Most of the path was covered by several inches of snow melt and mud. The only way to avoid it was to place each foot very specifically, or walk off the path through bushes, ducking under tree branches. As much as this hike was meant to be quality time with God without distraction, I found myself not knowing what to say and struggling to listen.
So I just walked. I'm thankful this is a relationship, because yesterday was not a day of being my best self. The last week or so God has been using his word, women in my life, and our own time together in that secret place to show me I was missing a key element in my relationship with him. I knew what it was. I'd known for a while. I just didn't know how to get from here to there.
The more I understood the truth that it wasn't a matter of "getting" anywhere, but a decision to accept what already was, the more frustrated I became. To accept what already was meant there was a mess that needed to remain. Honestly, I haven't gotten beyond this painful fact: the mess will remain until Jesus comes back, but the love and power promised in Christ is possible in the mess.
I went on a hike hoping to have some more clarity. Hoping to receive what I'd been unable to receive as of yet. When intelligence fails, persistence can sometimes produce results. I don't believe I'm a particularly smart person. I just stick with problems longer than most until I get the solution.
I went on my hike to sit with the mess. I started reciting what I knew to be true in scripture, pausing and listening. When my intellect muscled it's way in to analyze and question I'd gently nudge it back out and try to engage my heart.
So I walked. Frustrated with myself for not getting the simplicity of the gospel I could preach, I just walked. I started to get distracted by trying to navigate the placement of my feet on the trail to avoid the mud. Pretty soon my brain was completely engaged in avoiding the muck and I was forgetting completely about the reason I'd come to hike in the first place. Meanwhile, my dog zipped and zig-zagged across the trail and through the bush, high on life.
At one point I looked up and saw the sun cutting through the trees like giant ribbons of light. It took my breath away. Pine trees had long since dropped the weight of snow from their limbs, but continued to drip water that glinted like diamonds in the light. The fog caught the light, playing with it as it passed from one particle to another before cascading on the soggy earth. Then, after just a few seconds, it was gone.
I kept walking, trying to keep my eyes open for more. It was almost like a wink or smile from God. If I stopped looking at the placement of my feet to avoid the mud it was easier to spot the light before it disappeared. As my shoes got muddier, my interactions with the light became more frequent.
Before I knew it, my shoes and jeans were caked in snow melt and mud up to my calves, and I had a dozen pictures on my phone of the light dancing through fog and sweeping to the forest floor. My dog was a dirty mess, so when we got home she ended up in the tub. My jeans went into the wash and within an hour of coming home we were both good as new again.
What are we staring at?
So much of the mess is outside of our control. We can only repent of our sin, we can't repent of someone else's. We can only live in the light for ourselves - we can't make others do the same. So while we may be doing the best we can, we cannot avoid or fix or change the mess that comes with living in a fallen world. We can only pour out what's inside of us already.
So are you staring at the light or trying to avoid the mess? If you're focused on the latter you'll have nothing to offer, but by living in the light of life, in Christ, you'll have an incredible hope and joy and power to spread to those stuck in the mess.
Yesterday I struggled with keeping my eyes on the light - even after that hike. Fear made every effort to move me from it, but praise God no matter what I chose to focus on the truth remained: nothing can separate me from the love of Christ.
It's just a matter of me choosing to keep my eyes on the light.