Sunday, May 30, 2010

Metaphor, Tall Grass, and Prayer

I was pulled to the waterfall tonight, but I resisted. “It’s late already.” I argued. “The mosquitoes will be terrible. And what about the snakes? And the poison ivy?” But the urge was insistent. It wouldn’t let me loose. While walking the dog, clarity struck. This wasn’t just some random hunger for nature’s respite, but a pull of the Spirit; an insistent tug which had been building in intensity since last night. So I settled my dog back at home, told my husband where I was headed and I took a chance, believing the Holy One would meet me there.

The sun was setting, and I didn’t bother to take the phone--there are no reception bars at the waterfall. It was after 8pm when I arrived since I’d put it off so long, and the sun was already below the tree line. The woods were dark and held untold creepiness within their depths. What was I thinking coming out here—by myself—this late?

It’s been a wet spring and the county hasn’t mowed along the road yet this year. The grasses were tall—some above my waist. I parked in the ditch break above the culvert and walked up the gravel road, hoping for a wide, flattened deer trail where the weeds would be tamped down enough that I could cross without having to fear snakes, ticks, and other creepy crawlies which might be hiding there. But no luck. So I stood at the edge of the road, less than thirty yards from my destination, and tears came to my eyes.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t complete my mission. I couldn’t get to the waterfall.

I was too afraid.

When I was a teenager I came here all the time. Heedless of danger and so steeped in the immortality of youth, the thought of creatures and potential accidents was the furthest thing from my teenaged mind. But my thirty-seven-year-old self could not begin to channel that girl. I was trapped on the edge of the gravel road, frozen with the realization that I am afraid of everything. The sad, humbling wrench that my faith is, for all practical purposes, a sham.

Can you trust me with this?

The Still Small Voice was unexpected, but not shocking. He wasn’t mocking, nor was he daring me. The Voice wasn’t asking me to go down the bank and across the water, just to reach its top; to go through the tall grasses; to place my feet on unlevel, possibly inhabited ground. The Voice was as quiet as a thought, but without the timbre of self origination. And with that simple question the Spirit caressed my mind—and tore open my heart.

I swallowed and looked back toward my van. Then toward the waterfall, and back at the weeds and tall wildflowers. My heart sank. Anything could be hiding in those grasses.

Can you trust me with this?” The question reverberated around my soul, gently demanding an answer.

“I don’t know.” I admitted, though hesitantly, aloud.

I stared at the grass some more while I considered the question. I walked back and forth along the road’s edge, looking for a clean path where there was none. I heard creatures, small creatures, move to my left, but I didn’t see the evidence of their existence.

Can you trust me with this?

And , suddenly, I knew my answer. It was shocking to admit, but achingly true. “No.” I said. “I can’t.” And my honesty took me the rest of the way to a revelation moment—the realization he’d planned for me all along with every urge that had tugged at my heart for the past twenty-four hours. “I haven’t really trusted you for a long time.”

I gazed at the bank. I knew right where the path would be, even though I couldn’t see it. The steep deer trail down the mud with hidden rock outcroppings just the right size for a foothold. Even from my low point on the road I could see the young tree trunk—thicker than I remembered—which my youthful self had grabbed onto for balance before using it to swing down to the rock-lined creek bed below. But I couldn’t get there. Something was in my way.


Trust me with this.”

It wasn’t a question anymore. It was a nudge. And to disobey seemed... wrong. But my feet were heavy.

"Trust me with this."

“Okay.” I took a deep breath and pushed a size-nine’s worth of grasses down, then another. And another. I jumped over a low spot and up to where the grass wasn’t so tall. I stepped carefully, and the sticks in my path remained thankfully inanimate. I made it to the top of the creek bank.

I made it. But I couldn’t have done it on my own. Without that nudge, I would’ve already been back to the van, crying and feeling defeated. But I made it through the tall grasses, across the place where I’d seen a coiled snake just last spring, and to the top of the creek bank.

“I did it.” I said. “I trusted you to get me this far.” And as I stood there at the top of the bank, I thought, "Now what?"

The far ledge of the waterfall called to me as if it could smell the girl I once was. I really wanted to get across the creek to where the white wildflowers grew out of the rocks (always on the opposite side—the sun-facing side), to sit on that ledge and dangle my legs above the pool below—but the crossing would be slippery. Though I wouldn’t have hesitated at fifteen, I knew the creek was running too swiftly for common sense to take me to the waterfall’s ledge. Strangely, however, the urge was gone. The message had been simple. He hadn’t asked me to trust Him to get to the destination today, just to get to the place where I could see the path clearly. And He didn’t need me to go the whole distance tonight. He only wanted to take my hand and bring me close enough to see it—and to see something else-something hidden from the naked eye and from my fear-veiled heart.

This was not simply a trip to the edge of a waterfall. This was a safari to the edge of my faith which took me a few pitiful steps beyond its borders. At his urging, I was forced to take the stage as a player in my own allegory. I guess the Holy Spirit had a message for me that wasn’t making it through the static-filled channels of the daily grind, so He had to bring me to this place tonight to show me how my commitment to Fear paralyzes me—and limits him from accomplishing that Good Work which he has begun within me. On this stage, this weedy amphitheatre, the Holy Spirit chose to pierce my consciousness with the power of metaphor.

It was time to go. I headed 8 miles west and home as day wept orange through its hazy blue eyes. I’m not sure what to do with tonight’s revelation, but I think my fear—that ugly gray lump which has lurked on the corners of the last several months, staining my ability to write, relate, and, yes, even, at times, function—has been somewhat crippled by this revelatory visit to my sacred space.

I have been humbled tonight; an adventure which rarely happens alone. Seeing my allegorical self was painful, though necessary; for how else could I accept that fear cannot stand fully erect in the presence of the wooer of my soul?

Oh, that each day I would be willing to step out on faith and to bleed honestly upon the page; that I would move forward through the mysterious tall grasses knowing that, although this may not be the day I reach that place where I can sit and dangle my feet over The End, I can type my heart onto the keypad and trust that His hand rests upon mine to take me exactly the distance he wants me to go. Oh, that I would faithfully follow his leading—his urging—his wooing—to that place where metaphor comes to life… and where fiction mirrors truth. Amen.

No comments: