There is a walking trail nearby that is somewhat hidden. Once you cross the busy street, you step into a place that wraps peace and quiet around you. The wooded area closes you in so you can focus on nature and its simplicity.
It represents how life can change from one moment to the following, often against one’s will. The trees don’t get to decide if their leaves change color and die off. It just happens.
Every wildflower imaginable shows itself in the spring, allowed to grow free and unbothered by anything. These are the fortunate ones who aren’t sprayed and gotten rid of so a perfect lawn isn’t ruined. They aren’t under the control of anyone; they don’t hold back any of their natural ability to be what God intended.
The message that presents itself is that while we spend a lot of our time caught up in planning, organizing, shifting schedules, and delegating, this space is involved in none of that. There are no rules, and time doesn’t matter. The tranquility that can be felt there results from the lack of stress.
All the inhabitants are carefree, not concerned about a single thing.
Everything that exists there relies on an unseen force that has exactly what it needs to happen when it happens. Nothing is chased after or tried to be obtained with a struggle. Birds fly from branch to branch, making their homes without any thumbs. They know what to do and how to do it, guided by the One who put them there.
There is a creek that runs alongside the paved trail. It’s clear enough to see the muddy bottom as it winds its way along, with a current that at times can move quickly. In other seasons, it’s almost at a standstill. It becomes frozen into place in the winter, unable to budge until the temperature increases. It has to wait to flow again, given a rest period that it has no say about.
My daughter and I were walking in the late afternoon on a day that had been nearly 40 degrees. When you have been subjected to twenty-two below windchills, it’s as if spring is right around the corner. That’s until you look at the forecast and see the plunge is about to take place again in the next twenty-four hours. So you get outside while you can.
As we were in deep conversation, I heard to my left a sound that reminded me of a time way long past.
“What is that?” She asked as we both immediately stopped.
“I think it’s the ice.”
We stood there and listened to loud cracks as they moved their way up toward where we were. Nothing was visible but only detectable by our hearing.
When you can’t see something, there’s a slight bit of concern involved as you wonder if you have time to run. It’s that fight or flight mechanism that automatically kicks in.
Because I recognized it, I knew we weren’t in danger.
Unlike the time I had gone into a fish house for the first and only time in the middle of a frozen, gigantic lake. I wasn’t too thrilled about it, but I accommodated an acquaintance who talked me into it. This person loved to spend hours over a tiny hole in the middle of nowhere waiting to catch something.
I kept thinking about the safety of it. Or, the unsafety. But I was assured that nothing terrible could happen. I trusted this person who basically called me a chicken and said I was afraid for no reason. Not only did one say it, another chimed in to let me know that I was being absolutely ridiculous for having such fear. After all, years and years of this had been nothing but fantastic for them.
The place was heated, and it was a home away from home. It would be like I was sitting in my living room, they said.
I was talked into it, not remembering my house doesn’t sit atop an iceberg. Reluctantly, I decided to try it.
I had to put on layers but was told that it would be like a tropical haven with heat enough to strip down to a short-sleeved shirt once inside. It would be a mini respite from the harsh winter that swirled about us.
I got on the back of a snowmobile and was driven way far from the shoreline. I tried to tell myself that there was solid ground below us. Not a lake. Not a hypothermia death trap. I stopped myself from seeing the obituary page with my name on it.
I saw other houses along the way, and no one looked like they were having any issues. I started to feel more relaxed when nothing dangerous happened. By the time I was inside, I wasn’t afraid anymore. It felt like I was walking on a solid piece of ground, so what was there to be upset about?
The heat had been left on as the previous user had just come in. So I started the process of taking off each piece of clothing.
I don’t recall what we were talking about, but I found myself at ease as I looked around. What had seemed so frightening had not been that at all. My imagination had gotten the best of me, I thought to myself.
I turned to look at something to my left, so my back was to my “friend”. That is when I heard thunder as a weird storm had suddenly come upon us. I looked up, wondering why this was happening in January, but in Minnesota, you never know. We might not have hurricanes or typhoons, but abnormal weather conditions can come out of nowhere.
The sound kept coming in waves, and it wasn’t minutes, but seconds, that were going by. The house moved slightly.
Finding no answers in the ceiling, I looked to my right, just about to ask what in the world was going on.
This stalwart, nothing can frighten me individual had bolted without a word. The door bounced off the outside of the house and slammed shut as he ran at top speed away from whatever fate was about to befall me.
The loud rumble kept on going as I walked over and looked out. I could barely see him in the dark, but headlights from another vehicle made it possible as he sprinted like there was a gold medal at stake. Not my life.
I still had no idea what was happening. All had gone back to normal as I stood there.
“Get out of there!” I heard over the strong wind.
“Why?” I yelled back.
You would think that I would have done exactly what I was seeing modeled with all my hesitation beforehand.
“Nothing is happening now,” I shouted back.
Hesitantly, he returned, totally pale. As he quickly grabbed all his stuff, I stood there wondering what the matter was.
“I don’t understand what is wrong.”
“That sound was the ice giving away below us. I have never heard it that loud before. I thought the whole thing was going to sink.”
He was again out the door before I was. A word to the wise: if the people around you run during an emergency and don’t care about your well-being, consider a new social circle. There wasn’t even any indication to me during the trouble that I was to race out of there. I was left to go down with the ship or house.
Do you know there is only One who you can rely on in your times of despair or uncertainty? In Deuteronomy 31:6 it says,
Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you. (Message)
The good thing about a crisis is discovering who is for you. Words can be deceiving, but actions never lie.
In Psalm 55:12-14, there’s a stinging truth that I believe we all have had happen at one time or another:
For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house, we walked in the crowd. (Message)
When you realize that someone you trusted is more into their self-preservation than anything, even at your expense, that can be difficult to fathom, especially if you try and see the good in all.
One of the most amazing things I witnessed on that tranquil, isolated trail was the ducks that would glide into the water. Often noisily, they would announce their arrival as they found a spot amongst the other swimmers. I wish I spoke their language.
It was like watching a bunch of people gossip with all their noise.
On one occasion, I saw something I had not noticed before. One of them got startled by something, so the entire group suddenly, in unison, rose with wings flapping to get to safety. It was such an unexpected uprising; I had no choice but to stop because I didn’t know which way this large group would go, and I didn’t want to be in their way.
This time the sound wasn’t one of imminent danger. It was unity as they all got together on the same page. Some struggled to understand, but they weren’t about to be left behind. With the alarm signaled, they all joined together to fly off in a flock, with one leading the way.
It looked like mass hysteria, but on the other hand, not one of their own was left behind or abandoned. They were all looking out for one another.
If you take the time, you can learn a lot from a place where no words are spoken, but profound, powerful lessons are always underway all around you.