I’m sure I first fell in love with my husband on a walk in the woods. Which walk I can’t say because there were so many that first summer. We’d pull on long sleeves and pants over our shorts before climbing on his motorcycle (no need to mention the motorcycle part to our kids!) and then be off. Most often our trip would partly consist of being jarred uncomfortably along a dirt road leading to a far part of the woods in northern Maine (north of Bangor anyway). There was the memorable ‘appliance graveyard’ hike where we wound ourselves through a plot of old refrigerators, ovens and other remnants left to rust in the woods and ended up on a boulder in the wilderness as the sun set and darkness settled. Then, the coyotes started howling and we howled back in a conversation only they understood.
Often on our adventures we would look for a mountain to climb and then sit victorious at the top, looking west as the sun set and watching the stars come out. We’d see the distant glow of light from a town far away and feel like we were somehow separate from the rest of breathing, drudging humanity; closer somehow to the coyotes and stars. Maybe it was the effect of sitting with someone who was gently being revealed as the man I would be united with for life, or the stillness in the cooling air, but those moments after the sun set seemed to stand still. They were miniature eternities where time seemed peeled away and I felt that all that had come before in my life and all that would follow, even for generations, was surrounding us as we sat together. They were moments when we would speak in whispers even though there were miles stretched between us and any other listening ear.
But then, a breeze would break through with an extra chill, or a mosquito would bite and one of us would have to look at our watch and time came back. We would have to make our way back down the mountain. Always without a flashlight we’d start back down the rocky, often unfamiliar trail. He always led the way and I remember being thankful for his white t-shirt reflecting the little bit of moonlight on a particularly dark night. Ours was an unordinary falling in love. He didn’t hold my hand until the following winter when he placed a diamond on one of my fingers. So instead of a finger grip, my eyes stayed fixed on this man as we made our way down. With the night closed in around us, in a far and unfamiliar wood, I just kept moving one foot in front of the other. There were stumbles, branch scratches and the occasional fearful shiver when I thought about the dark trail behind me. But my eyes kept searching and fixing themselves on the man I trusted leading me home.
Years have gone by, babies born, boxes packed and unpacked and here I find I’ve followed him into the woods once more. The trees surround our cabin-house and we can watch the sun set over distant hills in the west. Instead of just two adventurers there are nine of us now and someone often speaks the words, “Let’s go for a walk in the woods.”
This is a sweet, happy, busy life we’ve been blessed with. But this isn’t all. I have unwrapped countless gifts in this life. I have been blessed with the fulfillment of nearly all the dreams I had as a young girl. But strangely I’ve found them wanting. The greatest joy in this life is dulled by the brokenness of living in a world where sin and death have entered in. Its the pain of holding a great treasure in your hand only to watch it fading slowly away.
This life, with all its blessing, is being used up. We can grasp it only to have it slip through our fingers. My hope isn’t found by looking at the great gifts in my life though I am deeply thankful, beyond words, for each one. My hope comes from remembering that I’m not really home yet. I’m on a path where even my dearest, most beloved friend can’t blaze the way.
Ultimately, the journey my soul makes through this life is not one I make as a wife or a mother or a sister or a friend, but I am journeying on this path as a follower of Jesus. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” His road home isn’t always what I would naturally choose for myself or for those I love. Sometimes I think there must be some other way. I start looking for hope in some other place but always there is emptiness and a darkness when I turn my face away from Him. Its like trying to satisfy my thirst by eating sand. I get more parched and long again for the life giving water.
I can’t escape that I am a believer. A questioning, praying, stumbling, fumbling in the dark, believer.
But he keeps calling and there is grace. “Light is sown for the righteous and joy for the upright in heart.” (Psalm 97:11) He calls me, covers me with his own righteousness and lights my way. This gospel is simple and hard and so often I feel like I can only see a glimmer. It’s a bit of light springing up along the path like a seed that was sown. It’s the encouragement to keep following. It’s the seed of light that grows into faith and blossoms into joy.
So, here I am, just starting to share my journey, hoping that those little seeds of light in my life might send a glimmer of hope to another soul like me, in a far wood but on the path leading Home.