Wind, Light, and Forest Footholds

path-in-the-late-sun

“The steps of faith fall on the seeming void, but find the rock beneath.”

– John Greenleaf Whittier –

– – – – – – –

One thing is certain as I get older. Uncertainty. That ever-constant wind.

Sometimes that wind is warm and robust with adventure.

Sometimes it makes me afraid. Its fingers are cold and its face is wet and its chill wraps around and leaves me shivering.

Years ago, I set out on a path, led there by a Guide, the only One who knows–who is–the Way. Staying in that right way is hard; migrating off the course seems to come as naturally to me as to the dark, overhead arrows of south-veering geese.

Faith is a lesson that has come to me in these places, hunted me down, like Heaven’s Hound.

Faith has trailed me and found me in the dark, in the strange, lonely places where my feet slide in the path-edge crumbling. Many a weary time, I’ve looked down at the winding little trail, only shadows painting the ground beyond my current footholds. It’s true, those words–it seems there is “just enough light for the step I’m on.”

And for that one, I still have to squint.

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom, Lead Thou me on! The night is dark, and I am far from home – Lead Thou me on! Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see The distant scene, – one step enough for me.

– John Henry Newman –

For some reason, in a journey’s thin light, my memory fades. If I were honest–if I were conscious–of all the places my Guide has brought me through before, maybe that next trembling footstep wouldn’t take so much out of me. If the way behind me wasn’t all fog and more shadows–shadows of dim remembrance–I might be able to hold a little bit less of my breath for the plunge forward into the unlit places.

So it is, that when I am hesitating here on the precipice from known to unknown–and I am here at this place, a thousand times today and yesterday and tomorrow–so it is that my Guide is all I have to go on. My Guide, and feeble rememberings, and grace that brings just enough light.

“All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
….For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

– Fanny Crosby, emphasis mine –

Sisters, all of us have forests with dark paths that wind into the distance. In my forest, I often travel alone–at least, alone with my Guide. But really, we are all together in this forest deep, threading through dim footpaths that intersect and mingle for a way and sometimes merge to go on the rest of the way together. We all have forest places where grace is our only light and faith our only foothold.

Let us look up, see the stars over the dark woods.

Light pinpricks, shapes of a thousand things to point us on and give us hope.

The adventure-wind whispers in the pines and dances in the oaks and shivers through the beeches and perches on my shoulder, trickling, tickling with its soft-breathed words. “The Guide who made these stars knows their names, each one. The Guide who grew this forest traced with His finger these meandering trails. The One who set your feet on this path counts the number of the strands of your hair shivering and streaming and shimmering in my breath. This Guide smiles on this direction you travel and braces your steps on the rocks with His own trail-worn hands and has promised to take you safely through this wood.”

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…be glory….”

– Jude 1:24, NASB –

So it is that I am still stepping, my friends. I am still living an adventure here in this forest often dark, this forest called life. Sometimes the sunrise floods the silvered branches with light and I see the remembered shapes of what my Jesus has done and all it is that He has promised to do. I still close my eyes into the stiff, bright chill of the adventure-wind, smiling and hoping and praying.

This place, right here, is where I live.

Putting one step out in faith, waiting for the next glowing illumination of grace (2 Cor. 12:9). Jesus has never failed me, you know. He does all things well.

Even for this straying daughter who can’t seem to remember her way home.

Won’t you step out too?

– – – – – – –

“Nothing does so establish the mind amidst the rollings and turbulences of present things, as to look above them and beyond them – above them, to the steady and good hand by which they are ruled, and beyond them, to the sweet and beautiful end to which, by that hand, they will be brought.”

– Jeremy Taylor –

– – – – – – –

A big thank-you to John Luty at Public Domain Pictures for this lovely photo!

Advertisements

Stormy Mornings

waves-ocean

Smooth-sailing life doesn’t drift me closer to God, not usually.

It’s those thunderstorms that crackle uncertainty into my plans that set me to clinging.

I once wrote in my journal that it isn’t the dark and stormy nights that bother me so much. That dusk is natural—expected rhythm.

It’s the mornings that dawn dark and stormy that rattle me so badly.

It’s those Galilee storms that swell out of serenity and suddenly flood me.

God sometimes parts my perspective’s thick curtain and allows me to see that another is hurting.

Sometimes another’s vulnerability startles me and I wonder how I can stand when my foundation seems to shift like angry surf. How can I speak when my words have such power of life and death?

In the waves, I can only stand when I see the Master walking beside me, firm though the waters rush about Him.

I can only stand when I believe in His power to hold me up.

While reading through Hosea with my family, a few verses caught my heart:

“I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms;

But they did not know that I healed them.

I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love,

And I was to them as those who take the yoke from their neck.

I stooped and fed them.”

 – Hosea 11: 3-4, NKJV –

In this sea-gusting life, my Father holds my hands and teaches me to walk in the storm. “I taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by their arms…”

Even when the day breaks cloudy and thunder complains, yet He draws me with his gentle cords, with His bands of love.

Even when this earth-yoke presses heavy, He is the One who takes the yoke from my neck—and replaces it with one both easy and light.

When my heart is sore and soul-hungry from fighting the current’s deadly pull, He stoops down and holds out His hand, like He did on Galilee to a fisherman floundering in unbelief.

Lyrics of the song “Who Am I” by the group Casting Crowns remind me:

“Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love and watch me rise again? Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea would call out through the rain and calm the storm in me? Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done. Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are.”

The wind still whips in my face, but now it feels almost invigorating. The waves foam, cresting and eddying around my feet.

And yet I stand, because of who You are.

“Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven. Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!”

– Psalm 107:23-31, NKJV –