I love the outdoors, especially the forest. There is something invigorating about being in nature and experiencing the freeness of fresh air and denseness of the wood. I have many fond memories of time spent with my family camping and exploring the great unknown of what adventures may lie in wait. For the most part I have a fairly good sense of direction. Over the years of time spent in the woods I have only been lost once.
It was a little over three years ago and Deb and I had slipped away for a three-day weekend in the mountains of West Virginia. On our last day, the day before Easter, I had decided that morning to go on a quick bike ride. I was on the bottom floor of the cabin and I shouted up to Deb that I was going for a quick ride and would be back in an hour. Since it was going to be just a short ride, I had on a t-shirt and running pants. Important items that I did not take consisted of water, my cell phone, warm clothes, a flashlight or specific directions of where I was going to go. It was about 10 minutes into my ride when I noticed a trail off the road. I headed down the bike trail and came to an open field that had a great knoll, which overlooked the forest. A perfect spot to sit and reflect over the next day’s sermon and spend some time with God. As I sat and listened to Gods creation I heard the sound of a stream below. I still had some time, so I jumped on my bike and headed down to the stream. To this point I had not experienced much of a thrill on my bike. I noticed a trail that was fairly steep up the other side; therefore, I decided to venture to the top of the trail so that I could ride to the bottom, however, when I got to the top there was another trail that looked a little more adventurous. I choose to take it back to the bottom. After I arrived at the bottom, to the same creek, or so I thought, I headed up the stream to get back on my original trail. At one point I had to leave the stream to climb up over some boulders. Unbeknownst to me the stream split. After a short period of time wandering through the woods, carrying my bike, I came to a large open field. It was then that I realized I was lost, but not all was lost. On the top of one mountain I could see the ski lift to the trail “Salamander”. I knew if I kept my eyes on the lift and walked straight to it I would eventually get back to the cabin. My one-hour excursion had now turned into 4 hours. After having to cross a chest high river and climbing some fairly rugged terrain, I found myself deeper into the woods and trying to decide how I was going to put down for the night. I discovered a small spring to drink water. I made another choice to walk for a half hour more. If I did not find a way out, I was going to start preparing for a night in the woods. My concerns were the dropping temps and my lack of clothing. After a short time longer I found and old logging road. I was able to ride my bike on it until I saw a small farm. This lead to a paved road and eventually a store that let me call Deb and tell her that I was ok and how to get to me. In the end I had wondered off my path by about 15 miles.
Occasionally, I will reflect upon my mishap voyage and the lessons learned. One of my favorite Psalms in the Bible is Psalm 63. Many times it has been my hearts cry to “behold His power and glory” within troubling or difficult times of this journey of life; however, I would hope that I would have the same request of my God when the path of my existence was not engulfed in adversity.
This morning during our family devotion, after breakfast, we looked at Psalm 63 and discussed the situation that David was experiencing when he penned these Holy words. It was his present surroundings that caused him to reflect on his spiritual health. Even though calamity was all about him, his spiritual man was good. He was in a place where he was “hungering and thirsting” after his God. Should this not be our hearts cry each day? After reading the Psalm I posed the question to my family, “If you had to write a psalm to God today, what would your physical and spiritual surroundings look like?” The first thought that came to my mind was the forest and the time that I was lost.
First of all, I was in the place that I wanted to be. I find complete satisfaction in being where I am. It is a place of joy, as well, a place that I am learning to be comfortable. Each visit to our communities and time spent building relationships is exactly where I want to be. It is within this time of ministry that God speaks through His people. Many times I have thought, is this really what I get to do the rest of my life? I have wondered if I will wake up from the dream. I genuinely want to be doing what I am doing.
In the second part of my psalm, I would cry out to God that I am completely lost. Even though I know I am supposed to be where I am, I am utterly in a state of dependence of God. My daily list may consist of twenty objectives; however, when I lay my head down at night it would be a good day if I made it the second one on the list. Most times in the midst of the first item, I end up on a detour to number twenty-one or twenty-two on my list of twenty. I am by far no master of anything that I do. I believe the key to being adrift is seeking God each step of the way and trying not to be distracted by paths that look appealing, but are not the intended paths of God. It is the enchanting and charming pathways in life that lead us so far from the desires of God. When we should be crying out, “God help”, we are more like the three-year old that says, “I want to do this on my own”. There is great merit in the second response, but also dismay, failure and disappointment wait when we believe we can do it without God. In a sermon about Psalm 63 Charles Spurgeon said, “We too may expect to be cast into rough places ere we go hence. In such seasons, may the Eternal Comforter abide with us, and cause us to bless the Lord as all times, making even the solitary place to become a temple for Jehovah” Being lost is not always a bad thing in our lives. It is when we feel found that sometimes we drift from the necessity of God in our lives.
In my final part of my psalm I would reflect upon the importance of the beacon in my life, aka Salamander ski lift. I knew that as long as my eyes were focused in the right direction I would always have the assurance of knowing I was headed the right way. The interesting part is that even though my eyes were where they should be, it did not free me of the turmoil’s of the journey. I still had thirst, rivers to cross, nightfall, and other adversities, but my determination was based off of my destination, not my circumstance. My bike was my cross that I had to pick up and carry throughout the journey. It is vital to remember that our journey in life is not always smooth and tranquillo, but one of the greatest promises in the bible is that God will never leave us nor forsake us. Being faced with adversity is not the absence of God, but merely proof of our complete dependence of Him.
So, our challenge today, as we left the breakfast table, was to think of our Psalm. When is a time that we could compare our physical surroundings to our spiritual being? Deb spoke about the idea of rain and how refreshing it was as we enter into rainy season in Mexico. She also expressed how heart rejoiced in the anticipation of the cleansing that the rain brings. Baillie said her life was a reflection of the drizzle of rain this morning. She found that it brought her energy at the same time it was gloomy (it was her oxymoron), but she knew that it was not gong to last; eventually the sun was going to shine. Boyden regressed to his visit a couple of months ago to climbing up the side of cliff and then jumping off of a 30-foot waterfall. Even though he had done it ten or fifteen times it always required the same leap of faith to jump. We all have a psalm to write. The beauty of it is that we are writing it each day. Take time to reflect on life and where you are and where you are going. God is not far.