Take me to the woods, where money can buy me nothing, and the currency of worth is an open eye, open heart, and open ear. I have great wealth in that sort of currency. You should see my storehouses full of open eyes, expectantly looking for beauty in every corner, every minute. You should see my accounts loaded with open ears, ears to hear wind through the branches, the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart, and the voices and concerns of dear friends. You should see my purse, swollen with the rich weight of an open heart. In these things, I am very wealthy.
I hit the trail without a hiking partner, but not necessarily alone. The crackle of twigs and bark begins under my heavy boot, and the fast paced rhythm of my steps alerts a lone doe grazing on a fresh vine wrapped around the bottom of a tree trunk. The doe looks up at me, still but for her determined chewing, and then goes back to the vine; her quick analysis of my presence has determined I am not a threat to her or her lunch.
It is spring here on the trail, and the forest is lit up with bright green light. The leaves swinging and twirling on the trees under the wind act as the filter for the sun, illuminating the forest in springtime color. My heart delights in this color—the color of new. In the rays of light, you see tiny flecks floating, being tossed by the breeze; the fairy-like dance of pollen and seed is happening all around me, like nature threw a party with confetti and beckoned me to join.
I cannot help but smile while walking in the woods—the past couple weeks I have been weighed down with sadness, the kind of sadness that makes me cry for the world we live in and for broken families and for the suffering of friends. But here in on the trail, the miniscule white flowers and petite purple blooms brighten my eyes and lighten my load. The squirrels and chipmunks all chipper and busy weaving in and out of piles of leaves in their springtime dance fill me with joy. My God knows how to delight me.
I like to feel small in the big wood, under the towering trees that have lived, and will live, longer than I. I enjoy being reminded of how tiny I am in the grand scheme of things. Like one square box on a page of graph paper, in a whole warehouse of graph paper—I am that small. I relish being reminded that I should have humility, that I am not the center and I will not understand everything. I am energized and refreshed by knowing how small I really am, yet that I am loved by a measureless God who sees me and knows me.
The pollen sways and swirls in the sunlight. I walk into a pool of light that has reached the ground due to the lack of tree cover overhead and bright, white sun pierces through and hits my eyes—and it stings in a good way. I have reached the portion of the hike where I will now be on a steady incline for quite some time. My muscles work harder and my knees become aware that they are getting older.
I get so envious of the trees and their simple faith and obedience. God sets the world into motion—He sets laws of physics and biology and all sorts of science into place—and the trees, well, they just obey. And in their obedience of the laws He set into place, they grow tall and strong and solid and beautiful. They bask in the shining of the sun, dance in the rain when it comes, bare themselves for winter’s death and survive boldly, and then delight again in the newness of spring.
The trees don’t carry weights with them, they just grow and breathe and eat and bask. And I am reminded by their simplicity that I should not carry weights with me either, so I lay them down in the wood.
All this beauty is too much to behold. My heart leaps and stirs and moves within me. I open my arms wide so I feel the breeze to the fullest against my skin, my pace quickens on the path, my heart races, and I want to exclaim praise with all that is within me. My heart goes to that place of pure, senseless, weightless joy while I walk in the woods.
Let the world have their money, their reasons, their maps and compartmentalized lives, give me you, Jesus–the Maker of heaven and earth, of stars and soil and all that is in between. Here in the woods, He meets me and walks with me and knows the currency I have a wealth of. God of the universe knows me and sees me and calls me His own. There is peace here, an abundance of it, in the quiet of the wood walking with Him.
The forest welcomes me with open arms and asks for nothing, unlike the human-world. The weight that I carry—the sadness that comes with over-empathy that no one asked me to give but I am not myself without—disappears for a while and I embrace the purity of God-given peace amongst the silence of the human-world. I embrace the music of the wood; the crackling of my feet snapping twigs, the wind through the leaves and the creaking of the trees, the scurry of small, busy woodland creatures.
Obedience is uncomfortable for me, as a human. I don’t understand everything that God has set in to motion and commanded of me as His daughter, but I delight in Him fully. When I walk with Him and feel the presence of the Holy and Living God alongside of me, when I abide in Him, picking apart and understanding every circumstance of my life and future life no longer matters to me. I become as a tree, fully submitted to His sustenance and provision and will. I will bask in the shining of the sun, dance in the rain when it comes, bare myself for winter’s death and survive boldly, and then delight again in the newness of spring.
Here with Him, on a walk in the woods, I forget the world’s definition of what I should have and what I should be. Here in the woods, I could absolutely care less about the world’s definitions.
Success? It is temporary. Money? That is temporary, too. Earth-dream fulfillment? It is all temporary to me.
My aim is to seek the peace and the beauty and the truth and the healing that comes from walking with Jesus—and then go take care of others, invite them to the same. So it may take me to simple places… it may take me to uncomfortable places. Places our world may see as unenlightened, ignorant, inadequate, and maybe even idiotic. But I would rather be counted as foolish by this world—in which I live temporarily—for loving and obeying my God, rather than be counted as worldly-wise and praised by many.
Why? I love Him. He loves me. I feel it deep within my breast and throughout my bones—it is electrifying and more real and permanent that the soil under my feet or the sun above my head or the flesh of my body.
I walk up the incline of the hill, and make it down to the bottom. Turning around, I see the hill I just mastered, abundant with a chaos of trees. Glorious light pierces through and illuminates the forest with it’s knowing radiance. A variety of living greens and damp browns everywhere. I see everything; the dead leaves making up the forest floor, the new, spring leaves at the top of the trees rustling, the pollen flecks swirling on the breeze. I hear everything—the hearty woodpecker bird making hollow noises in the distance, the small creatures moving under the mounds of brown leaves, the branches scraping together. I see and hear it all and breathe and wonder.
I am thankful. I have used my open eyes, open ears, and open heart on this wood-walk today. It was a good deal, a fair exchange for what I received. My heart is full and I feel rested, even though my body is starting to get tired–I am grateful I only have a mile or so to go. I look ahead and smile to myself, and continue on the path. I came here today without a hiking partner, but I am not alone. I never am.
Psalm 52: 8-9
8) But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
9) For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.