A few weeks ago I received a very special invitation. My husband asked me if our daughter and I would like to join him on a deer-scouting trip. At first I was a bit hesitant. I was busy with life. Working outside the home full time left precious few hours to complete all of the tasks necessary to keep a home running. I really needed to clean the house, do the grocery shopping, and try to plow thru the mound of laundry that had piled up since the previous Saturday. Before I declined however, I paused and remembered what the most important thing was. It would be a privilege to spend time with my husband, my best friend and lover. I accepted the invitation and almost immediately began to feel my excitement grow. Our plans were settled. The next Saturday we were going to rise early and make our way to the woods. After several hours of driving, we arrived at our location. My husband explained that due to the fact that other hunters may be present, my daughter and I had to wear bright orange hats and vests during our time in the woods. Our "guide", husband and father, was putting our safety first. I have not spend much time in the woods during my lifetime. In fact, I have no sense of direction and I struggle at best with even reading a map. So we were totally dependent on our guide and trusted him completely. We began our journey. It was a beautiful fall day. The sounds of the highway began to get dimmer with each step. Before I knew it, I felt transformed into another place and time. The wind was blowing gently and you could hear the sounds of acorns falling. It reminded me of popping corn. If I looked upward towards the tops of the trees I would become dizzy at their height. We followed behind our guide. When he would pause to look at something, we would stop behind him. He carried a map and a GPS, confident and sure of our destination. We walked behind him never questioning our safety, never questioning our path or direction. I watch my husband; he seemed so at home and happy this environment. He walked mostly in silence, hesitating occasionally to look at his map. His face was serious as he studied it, his eyebrows furled. Then with confidence he would continue on, twisting this way and that way along the path that only he could see. He pointed out several animal tracks and we learned what a deer scrape looked like. After walking for over an hour, we came to a wonderful clear stream. The water was so pure and it flowed secretly in the woods we were exploring. I wondered as I sat next to the creek, "how few people must know about this place!" It was as if we were given a gift, something to be enjoyed while on our journey. We didn't rest for long, our guide prompted us to keep moving, and we still had a good distance to travel. I grumbled a bit at leaving the beautiful spot for it felt so peaceful there. The next phase of our walk became the most difficult for me. I was beginning to tire a little. We came to a ridge and at the base of it was a large tree that had fallen. We climbed up on the log to rest, enjoy some water, and to pose for a picture. Then, our guide said, "Are you ready? We have to go up that ridge." "What??" did I hear correctly? When I hopped off the log and looked up, that ridge suddenly transformed into a mountain in my mind. "I don't think I can", I pleaded. "Yes, you can" quoted my husband and then he just turned and began his way up to the top. My daughter and I shared a quick glance and headed out after him. We had no choice but to follow him. It was a huge struggle for me to climb that ridge. I became out of breath, my heart was pounding, and my legs felt as heavy as lead. More than once I had to stop and lean on a tree. I would pant, "I don't think I can make it any further." Our guide lovingly would come back towards me and encourage me to keep going. "you can do it!" "its the way home" he would say. We finally made it to the top! In my mind, I had decided, "OK, I think I am done with this walk now." He smiled as if he knew and with kindness he began leading us back to what I call "civilization". We found our way back to the care almost 3 hours after we left it. On our return portion of the hike, I had a time of reflection, a sudden revelation about our day together. It was crystal clear to me, this parallel that I know understood...
Daily through our journey of life we follow our heavenly Father. He is our guide, for without Him we are lost. We are lost in the wilderness of life if we are without His love and guidance. He leads us through many paths and we are to follow Him pausing when directed, totally dependent on Him to tell us which direction to turn and when to do it. He adorns us with His Holy Spirit for our comfort and safety. Sometimes, He leads us to crystal springs, and He allows us to rest for a season and we enjoy His gift. Then we journey on. We find ourselves at the base of ridges, never wanting to climb them. They are difficult and hard. They cause pain and suffering. We can't avoid these ridges; there is no way around them, only to climb them. Our Guide leads the way and when we become weary, He comes back for us. Lovingly He give us His hand to help us with the next step. "We must also travel the ridge at times for it is part of the way home", He reminds us. We are not spared the ridge but we are never abandoned while climbing it. My God, my Guide, my Comforter and Friend. I am thankful for my day in the woods. A day spent with my husband and daughter. It was a day full of memories, laughter and yes, discomfort. I am thankful for my spiritual eyes being able to glimpse the similarities of our day together and my journey with Christ. I will forever be thankful for a Guide who is "all knowing", One who promises us we will never be lost if we choose to follow Him.
These are the lessons I learned from a walk in the woods.
November 6, 2005