A Walk in the Woods
On Saturday I took a walk in the woods. While my walk in no way rivals or even resembles Bill Bryson’s Walk in the Woods, (a great summer read by the way) it was delightful and even insightful. I walked the Ribbonwalk Trails in a nature preserve smackdab in the middle of a Charlotte neighborhood with which I have zero familiarity. The trails are pretty well marked and well maintained-at least at first.
About a half-mile in the trail became less and less like a trail. Covered with a dense blanket of pine needles, it became difficult to distinguish the trail from the unmarked forest floor. It was humid and still and I found myself feeling a bit claustrophobic and anxious wondering if my GPS would work out here in the urban wilderness. I passed a group of women walking together-headed in the opposite direction. One of them remarked, “Out here by yourself? Brave soul!” Yeah, that comment ratcheted up the anxiety a bit!
Because God has such a great sense of humor, it was at this moment that my phone totally quit playing my originally selected urban wilderness playlist which included everything from Yo- Yo Ma to Broadway with an occasional country song for good measure. My Apple product randomly decided to play a weird list of things. The first of this eclectic phone-on-the-fritz or Holy Spirit designed list, whichever, was a tenor aria from the Messiah, “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low…” You know the one--it begins with a recitative about a highway for our God. Next up was a brief section of a prophetic soaking time by Graham Cooke in which he talks about trusting the goodness and kindness of God as you are walking off the map. Onward to a snippet of “You Make Me Brave.”
Whether the play list was a coincidence or my fat fingers hitting a wrong button or a malfunction the Lord was in it. He now had my attention in this 188-acre wood, not to be confused with Winnie’s 100-acre home. I thought about how this unfamiliar trail walk was such a metaphor for my life these last few years. I often feel I don’t know how to get to where I am going or indeed even where I am supposed to be going. The way seems circuitous, not very clearly marked, occasionally slippery and treacherous. My spiritual GPS has seemed a bit off too.
I felt like the Lord was saying I don’t need a map and I don’t need GPS and I definitely don’t need to be anxious--because I have a Guide. The Guide knows the way and I should enjoy the journey and have conversation with Him. All at once, I was in my mind’s eye back in the Virginia woods of my childhood with my sister forging a path. My anxiety evaporated and I was able to enjoy the smells and the sounds of this beautiful hidden gem of an urban wilderness area. I even momentarily quit obsessing about my Fitbit step goal and was lost in child-like wonder.
“Guide me, O Thou Great Jehovah” is a favorite family hymn. It was in fact played at my cousin Pat’s wedding. I have always thought of His guidance as being deeply spiritual and super mystical and I guess sometimes it is. After Saturday’s walk though, I think somehow that His guidance is less mystery and more sort of touristy. (Maybe the Holy Spirit is more like Rick Steves and less like Google maps or Siri--not the tour books mind you, but actually being on a trip with Rick Steves himself, showing you all the charming native hang-outs and beautiful sights. Holy Spirit guidance feels friendly and fun these days as I walk on unmarked trails in unfamiliar neighborhoods, kind of like exploring Paris with the Club. I am not alone and I can’t wait to see what’s over the next rise and around the next corner.
Interesting that one of my favorite childhood books was a book of verse called Just Around the Corner… : )