Posted by: jcwillyams | December 8, 2009

Retreat

The leaves and branches didn’t stand a chance.  The russet-brown hiking boots trampled their way through the seasonal forest floor; the gnarled walking stick guiding the way.  Browns, reds, and yellows of every shade – some hidden in the long shadows of the trees, others shining in the bright morning sun – all the victims of the lone hiker.

He inhaled a deep breath – the scent of yesterday’s rain was still in the air.  Fallen leaves, twisted branches, and bright green moss created a seasonal potpourri.  The scent was seemed warm, baked in the bright sunshine that easily fought it’s way through the bare branches of the surrounding trees.

He looked ahead, eyes dissecting the land before him; gaging the ideal path.  There was a question in his eyes.  They seemed to twinkle in the sunlight – they seemed to be looking beyond the land for the answer.  They seemed to be asking beyond the heavens – a hidden conversation….
The sparkle in his eye intensified at a seeming confirmation. 
He surged forward.

There was a new confidence in his steps.  He walked without fear – he walked in faith.  Thorns appeared before him, but he did not stop.  He did not detour.  He took the obstacle with joy, finding ways to topple, trample, and traverse the dangerous path.

This new confidence – the twinkle of his eye – seemed to urge him forward.  It beckoned him into paths that seemed illogical.  He wandered ubiquitously, yet without hesitation.
Then he stopped.
He treaded into a clearing full of sunshine.
He looked into the sun; light flooding his face and washing out his features.
His brown hair shined golden, casting halos on his head and waves across his bearded face.

He stood silently in the clearing.  His eyes closed.  He leaned supportively on the walking stick, grasping it with both hands, bowing his head.  The moment was quick and yet his skin prickled; perhaps the warmth of the afternoon sky…perhaps something more.
Then he moved on.
No looking back – he unhesitantly pushed forward.

Once again he moved with assurance.  His eyes were careful to take in each detail before him, yet they pierced further, they saw a deeper plan.  He seemed to make decisions before ever arriving at each crisis.  In fact…there never was crisis, he deftly worked his way through with a joy and peace on his face.  He smiled at obstacles before him.  He embraced them, and sometimes avoided them, and sometimes was caught.  Even in the depth of his troubles – even as thorns clang to him.  Even as the path seemed to disappear – there was joy.   And there was triumph.

The mindless hiking finally came to a close.  Breathing heavy, he climmed with a look of expectation.  He rushed up the hillside, avoiding trees, footing sure – even over the moss covered rocks.
Then he reached the top.
And he stood still – breathing deep breaths.
He stared forward.  And slowly a smile was born upon his lips.
Gradually he turned – taking in the full scene.
Drinking in his discovery with profound satisfaction.

And what a setting.  His eyes twinkled once again as he observed the tree tops.
He seemed for that moment to be on top of the world.
The tree tops were at his feet.
He was one top.

And yet…he appeared small.  He looked humbled.
He quietly sat down on soft rock, blanketed with moss.
He curled into his knees.
Silence.

Utterly exposed to the heavens, the sun warmly flooded upon him.
He was hidden from the world below.
For a moment the world didn’t exist – he had conquered its obstacles.
He had traveled its weary path.
The solitary sojourner left the world behind and allowed himself to be engulfed into the endless streams beating from the sky.

Just for a moment – he retreated.

Then he opened his eyes, picked up his walking stick, and continued on…

****

The Hope team recently had the opportunity to go on a retreat to a cabin that was basically in the middle of the woods.  It was a much needed chance to re-energize and re-focus.  With the building stress of the past several weeks building upon us and shifting our eyes away from our purpose, we needed the chance to simply sit before our God and soak in His light.

I went on a “faith hike” as I have decided to dub it and I recommend it highly.  It was a chance to abandon my own plans.  To simply follow the guiding signs of God.  It was moving meditation.

The hike was a chance to reflect on the way I want to live my life.  I had no plans.  I only stepped forward with the prayer and faith that God would take me somewhere.  I took each step forward knowing that God would provide the next.  There were no paths.  There were a lot of thorny branches hiding low to the ground. It was encouraging to know that God was guiding me and that if i encountered an obstacle, He put it there.  He put it there to test me, to train me, to challenge me, and it did.  It prepared me for the future.  It prepared me for harder situations to come – it made the parts of the hike with no thorns that much sweeter.

There were times in the hike that I felt the need to simply stop and listen.  Times to stop and look to the light.  Times to rest in the warmth it cast upon me.

There were times in the hike that I doubted the path.  There were times that I took the wrong step and came to dead ends – these were the times that I stopped listening – the times I put my own agenda before God’s.

In the end I came upon an amazing spot to sit and reflect.  It was a hidden hill with a wonderful view, both of the world below and the sky above.

When leaving the hill an interesting thought crossed my mind.  In fact it was more of a question.  It was a thought that determined the direction I went.
Are you ready to die?
Are you ready to come to me?

It was a thought that filled me with both excitement and dread.  How I wanted to say yes.  How I wanted to follow that call and run towards God.  But my answer was no.

There were three paths.  One was the way I came.  The other lead to death.  The third lead to new life.

I knew there was no going back.  I had seen the top.  I had basked in the warm glow –  I wouldn’t return to where I had already been.

I said no to death.

Of the three – new life was the hardest.
It was the path that made the least sense to take.
But I took it with excitement – knowing God had a plan, and I would be around to see it!

I reflect on this with amazement.  It is the crossroads of a human right before coming to Christ.  They can live the same life – knowing where it will take them.  They can take death.  Or they can embrace their faith and follow His plan.
His plan will not make sense.
His plan will not be easy.
But His plan is the only true choice.
And once you take it – it’s amazing.

There were still struggles on this new path.
There were still obstacles to face.
I still took some wrong turns.
But I learned each time.
I learned to see the signs.
I learned to follow His guide.
I learned to see with new eyes.

As I ascended the final hill of my journey back to the cabin I noticed a distinctive tree.
I knew that was the next step of my journey.
I counted: “one”
and I looked ahead, sure enough another, “two”
I moved on in faith, “three”
I got a weird feeling there would be seven trees.
The road continued till finally I saw six, as well as the top of the hill.

I climbed the final rock, back on flat ground.
And saw my friend sitting there praying.
There next to her was two trees spiraled around each other.
And sure enough one of them was a “guide tree”. “seven”

And she gave me the direction I would go next.

God gives us a path to follow.
When we lean on him, he will make our paths clear.
He speaks to us through one another.
He speaks to us through creation.
He speaks to us through His word.
We need only to be quiet – and listen with ears of faith.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: