I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to believe that everyone, at some time or another, has one of those days when everything seems about as easy as gum removal from a kids hair. After multiple attempts from Pinterest guarantees and YouTube demonstrations, you finally throw up your hands, grab the scissors, wipe the tears and rehearse the words, “Hair grows back fast. God gave us hats for a reason.” Then when you kiss that little head at night, you try and forget the beautiful locks you ran your fingers through or the wet comb that would slick back dapper lines of handsomeness.
I had one of those days last week. Everything in my flesh wanted to find a way to walk through my life with the proverbial sheers and cut off what I didn’t like, trim back frustrations, or shave away whatever seemed to be mangled, tangled messes with no solution. Instead, I tried to take it out on gym equipment, but dumbbells were smarter than my cast iron will, so I left the gym sore.
I know better than to add weights of distraction when my soul is in distress.
So I found a little park with a path that ran beside the Erie Canal. My walk was as brisk as the temperature and my thoughts as noisy as the crunch from beneath my leaf-crushing feet. Frosty autumn mornings and past snow flurries had already turned this lush, fragrant, and ornamented path into a landscape burrowing down for the winter. There were no snapping turtles sliding down half buried tree trunks in the water. There were no herons hovering nor geese honking as I stutter-stepped further down the path, muttering half-spoken prayers. I only paused to take a picture of something here and there with my phone.
As I kicked up gritty dirt and sand, I noticed opened seed pods that would never find the soft soil to bury itself and bring up life. I talked to my God about places that seemed to be getting hard in my heart. Areas that were once sensitive but now fighting calloused indifference.
I noticed a colorful vine of poison ivy defying the season and spreading itself around whatever its tendrils could embrace. I stopped and talked to my God about anything in my affections that might be inherently poisonous. Sometimes things in life begin to wrap themselves too tightly around my heart and endanger the freedom and joy of the Lord. Yet, I noticed something else that also grew near and defied the season, but I’d have to get past the poison ivy to reach it. I stepped heavy on the ivy and leaned long across weeds and branches ’til I snapped a green milkweed pod off its stem, and then took a picture of one that had opened too late to feed the long gone monarch caterpillars of spring. My prayer changed directions to scour possible obstacles that could be preventing me from getting the nourishment I need in my spiritual diet. Hindrances to drinking in the milk of the Word that is always available if I’d just step past spiritual blockades.
I pressed on, taking a few little pictures here and there, praying about whatever thoughts they triggered like a Rorschach inkblot test of nature. I was shocked to find a small patch of thriving chives, a lone purple flower in the center of leaves, a solitary brilliant yellow one, green moss growing along a dead trunk and numerous other tiny things.
As I made my way back to the car, I paused and wrapped up my prayer with the Lord. “Lord, thank you that you condescend to hear the small and have such infinite patience and grace for me.” And then the Lord surprised me by answering my monologue.
“Shannon, look down the path you just walked again. (I did). You see leafless trees, lifeless flowerbeds, dull gray branches, and scratchy brown grass. You mainly noticed the cockleburs invading a wheat field, the poison ivy imposing on its neighbors, the absence of summer wildlife and the feeling of loneliness along the road. Now, look at all your pictures. (I did). Along this path I chose you to walk today, you did not realize that I gave you eyes that “plucked the precious from the vile (Jer.15:19)” and photographed life more than death. The big picture looks harsh, barren, and uninviting, but yet without realization, you stopped to gaze at the miraculous, the brilliant, and the colorful. You noticed the defiant against the elements, the flourishing despite sunless, and the nourishment available despite an enemy and the season.
This is life as a Christian. Don’t be discouraged by the seeming landscape…the world you live in today. There are unimposing, easily overlooked, miracles of life all around you. I made your blind eyes to see. Stop each day to take snapshots…don’t miss the glories I’ve planted along the way.”
I reached down for the door handle of my car and realized I wanted to remember this day, this path, this word from my Jesus. So I walked over to the newly erected sign by the parking lot and smiled bigger than I can describe.
Yes. This can be life for Christians today. Hard. But until we walk streets of gold and highways of holiness (Isaiah 35:8), we travel earthen roads, get grit in our toes, and sometimes discover fear, fatigue, frustration and pain a tangled, mangled mess in my current surroundings. Yet, when we walk with God, He wants to illuminate hidden glories strewn about our path, cause us to stop and rest when needful, and cause us to hear eternal truths that eliminate the desire to amputate life’s problems. His grace will be sufficient for each of us. He promised.
Ponder the path of your feet,
And let all your ways be established.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil. ~ Prov.4:26-27
Thus says the Lord:
Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls. ~ Jer.6:16