email devotion, pentecost 9
Happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. (Psalm 128:1)
I’m not much of a camper, but I have always enjoyed hiking, and on vacation last week we had a chance to take a modest hike near Deep Creek Lake, along the Swallow Falls Canyon Trail in Swallow Falls State Park in western Maryland. It was beautiful day, and near the end of the hike there is a quiet little pool along Muddy Creek, that allowed us all to dip our bodies into the cool mountain water in an act of rejuvenation for our short walk back to the car. In spite of the constant chatter from our grandson throughout the day, and the brief words exchanged when we met fellow hikers, the quiet beauty of the day seemed an invitation to consider the ways that God communicates with us as the creator of the universe.
I thought about the times that I think I am strong enough to stand as an island, apart from others, and self-sufficient in all of my deeds and actions. And I entertain the myth that suggests all the resources I need to make it through life are at my fingertips if I simply work hard enough or learn enough or make all the right choices of those before me. And then I find that God occasionally will bend me to God’s own will, reminding me that while I exist in the forest of the world, I am always surrounded by other trees among whom I grow and strengthen, and in whose presence I am shaped and formed into the person that God seems to see within me.
I considered the idea I often entertain which suggests that I always know the path upon which my live is being lived, and the illusion that I can regularly anticipate the decisions I should be making with surety and confidence. In these times, I see the steps I take toward God as ones of my own discernment and those arising from my own choices. And then I find myself in one of those dead-end places in life where I become frustrated in my every attempt to be independent … experiences and people and choices that in fact block me from the self-determined roads upon which I expect my life to play our its journey. And I am humbled, and stymied, and stopped in my tracks as I consider what I see as my own self-sufficiency, and the trickery I play upon myself. And I am reminded that in those moments of acknowledgement and surrender, that when I realize I am not an island unto itself, nor the sole tree in the forest, that God will open up new directions for my life … and new pathways for me to explore … new trails against which I can test myself … and new opportunities that I would never have envisioned for myself. Yes, God will in fact, lead me anew into the joyful future that awaits.