by: Leah Fuller
In my hammock beside a babbling brook, I was basking in the sun’s early spring warmth deep in the woods. I had set aside the day to be alone with my Savior, and yet my heart was full of trepidation and angst. My mind raced with worries over the present and future: Will He meet me here? Will I sense His presence or hear His voice, or will He be more aloof and silent this day? Does it matter how God interacts with me? Is it enough for Him to know that my intention is to spend time with Him regardless of what that looks like? And how do I release all of these anxieties that I can’t control anyway into His hands and dwell in peace today?
I don’t know about you, but I wrestle with these kinds of thoughts nearly every time I seek to retreat into solitude. I think the enemy takes note that we are entering into sacred space with our Father and is desperate to discourage us. He would deny us any opportunity to truly listen to God’s heart of love for us. Yet resisting him, I boldly proceed despite the doubts and fears that assuage my soul.
That particular day filled me with delight at God’s beauty and warm sunshine that had beckoned me into the wild. But as I sat in my hammock reading scripture, praying, and journaling, my heart remained in a funk, cold. Frustrated and unable to shed the shroud, I decided to go for a walk. With no particular destination and no trail to follow, I meandered along the banks of the brook, just watching the water wind its way down its narrow path. Some rock outcroppings up the hill behind me drew my attention, and I headed that way to cave hunt.
Alas, I found no caves as I stumbled along, tangling myself in a few briar patches on my search. I wandered along the hillside toward a small ravine, but just as I was about to head back down to the creek, something bright on the other side of the ravine caught my eye. My spirit lifted, thinking that maybe God was illuminating the glistening entrance to a cave or some other treasure just for me to find. However, as I peered in that direction, desperate to see what it was that had caught my eye, my heart sank when I realized my thrilling discovery was only a large piece of trash glistening in the sun. My shoulders sagged; tiredness seeped in, and I turned away from the ravine.
I felt anger begin to swell within me. Why would someone leave behind something so ugly in a place so beautiful? It was a desecration, and I wanted to get away from it. I had to escape from this intrusion to the serene landscape! But when I had taken only a few steps down the hill, something shifted in me. I turned with determination and started making my way to apprehend the offensive debris.
With determined steps, I quickly reached the creek at the bottom of the ravine, but suddenly a sparkling, hidden waterfall arrested my progress. Rising only a few feet, the waterfall glowed green with moss as the water tumbled over the edge into the small clear pool at my feet. Just think, had I not been looking to remove that little piece of trash, I may not have seen this delightful beauty! It lay hidden off the beaten path and likely went unnoticed by others. What a gift to my spirit in the midst of the desolate funk I had brought to this valley!
After a long pause, I continued on my way to the vine hanging from a tree that had captured the trash. To my amazement, though, it was a balloon…way out here, miles from any dwelling! I pictured a child holding this balloon on a string and the wind taking it from her hand. It had floated away—how far I have no way of knowing, but it rested here. Was it really as unsavory as I had initially judged? Surely the balloon had been a treasure, bringing joy and laughter to an exuberant child.
As I picked up the balloon and folded it into my pocket, I noticed just inches from where it had lain two or three, tiny, purple flowers, turned their faces toward the sun and pushed up through the brown leaves. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. As I looked along the hillside, I became aware of the many tiny flowers peeking through the leaves to remind me that God plants beautiful things in oft hidden places.
Slowly light began to dawn in my soul. I realized that I approach the marred places in my life story in much the same way that I had approached that lowly balloon trapped in the vine. When I notice sin or struggle or strife, my initial response is judgment. I want to reject it and get away from it as quickly as possible. But what if…what if those places within that we try so hard to hide from ourselves and others actually might lead us to something deeply beautiful?
The beauty of the waterfall and the flowers was not something that I had the power or the ability to create, but God in His goodness, wisdom, and power did create them. Then He opened my eyes to see them, all because I was willing to go take a look at the undesirable thing that, from my perspective, had flawed the landscape. What grace for Him to use that which I want to avoid to reveal the beauty of His kingdom—a beauty and goodness that also dwells within me, as one who bears His image!
I can become so focused on the worries and anxieties that blemish my perspective that I miss the greater picture of His kingdom intersecting with my earthly woes. Thank you, God, for such an opportunity to shift my eyes to Your ongoing work of healing, restoring, and beautifying that which has been lost or hidden from view. Right here is a glimpse of eternity and with it the hope of Your care for us in desolate places!
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these...But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”. – Matthew 6:28-29, 33-34
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.