Thursday, March 8, 2012

Trails of Trial and Winds of Peace

CC image courtesy of pfly on Flickr 
I love hiking trails.  Even as a young girl, the very thought that someone, or something could leave a path behind for others to follow intrigued me,  not to mention jump-started my imagination.  One of my favorite pastimes was exploring trails in the woods with my dog, Ginger. Many hours were spent acting out adventure stories I had written in my young mind.  A favorite storyline revolved around me pretending I was an Indian princess that had been captured by a group of bad guys. In my imagination, my knowledge of nature and keen Macgyver skills always led to my inevitable escape back home to my native village.  A late bloomer with braces, something told me there was no use waiting around for Prince Charming in this game.  So, off I would run.  My adventures led me to cross obstacles such as fallen tree trunks, rocky terrain, flocks of wild turkeys, and badger dens.  However, the best obstacle by far was a large creek that ran through the woods behind my parents' house.  The body of water was usually small enough that one could easily jump across to the other side. Once the creek widened and the embankments grew taller, however, things became more tricky.  Knowing my short legs would never make it if I tried to jump across these wide sections of the creek, I stuck to playing on one side.  That was...until the day I discovered I could swing on a vine. I noticed it on a day when I was walking close to the edge of a tall creek embankment.  Suspended from high above, it almost smacked me in the face as I walked by. To my great joy, I found after testing it that the vine was so well-wrapped around a tree that I could swing on it.  Back and forth, I would fly, with the wind blowing through my hair. The thrill of testing my limits as I soared high above the creek made my heart feel so free. I continued to swing on the vine many times after that.

CC image courtesy of jack_g on Flickr

However, as the months continued and I grew bigger, the vine one day decided it no longer wished to support the weight of a 90 pound girl. I clearly remember the fall.  It happened in slow motion. One minute I was watching the sky peek out from patches of tree branches. The next, I was balancing precariously on the edge of the creek bed.While the vine had dropped, it was still attached to the tree and now served as my rope to safety. Funny as I reflect. Even then, God was there to catch me when I fell. Even more interesting was how I welcomed the physical obstacles in the trail back then. My attitude was always to  push ahead with full abandon and joy, choosing to think of my problems as opportunities.  I'm 31 now, and I must admit I no longer make games out of how fast I can cross a fallen tree trunk without losing my balance.  My steps are a bit more cautious and weary.  Certainly, age, health, and experience play a factor. Even so, I can't help but notice a connection.  How many times do we as adults grow frustrated and angry when things don't go our way?  Leaving the house to run errands only to realize once we've arrived at our destination that we forgot the grocery list, or letter to be mailed is an example of the daily trials we face. Perhaps the condescending comments made by a certain person in your life are making it hard to remain positive. While these are small trials compared to some, it is safe to say the obstacles we face in this life are endless. I will be the first to admit that I often wish all the trails of my personal journey could be flat and smooth.  However, as I reflect back on that carefree young girl with a heart for adventure, I realize I can learn something from her.  

One thing I love to do when I hike now is listen for the sound of the wind in the trees. Something about the silence of the woods and the sudden rustling of leaves causes me to look up and marvel at the sight of huge sturdy trees bending forward under the weight of the wind. Who is this mighty God that even the trees bow down to worship him?  Ecclesiastes 11:5 answers me simply. "As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the maker of all things."  Though I can't understand or explain everything that happens in life, I can comprehend the peace I feel as I watch God's breath blow through the I feel His presence whisping through my fingers, my hair, and my life. This wind is the same wind I felt rushing past me as I soared high above a creek so many years ago.  As I breathe in, I realize that I love this facet of creation even more than I did then. Experiencing the peace of God in the midst of an obstacle or series of obstacles in your path is truly exhilarating.  I don't ever want to forget the peace of God--the trust that comes from knowing He is is control of everything that I do not understand. What freedom that is!  I love that a gentle soft breeze has the power to refresh me even when I'm tired and weak from hiking. Likewise, when I feel I can't possibly climb another hill in the seemingly never-ending twisting and turning trails of life, I will choose to trust in Him.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." 
-Proverbs 3:5-6.