There’s something about being at your parent’s home after being away that is comforting. It gives you a sense of security that you’ll always be able to find love in your life in at least 2 people and you’ve always got a place to come back to when you’ve wandered off and made a mess of things. I think this thought occurred to me on purpose. I believe God brought on this realization to better understand his role as my Father in my life. There’s something so comforting about turning your heart over to Jesus when you’ve been an idiot. There’s just such security in the knowledge that He will always love you despite your sinful nature and fleshly endeavors, and of course his reach is never too short to get to you no matter where you are. You have never gone too far or done too much for him to not come pull you out and hold you close while whispering sweet SOMETHINGS in your ear.
My mother dear was at work and my father was somewhere on a plane between Las Vegas, Nevada and Charleston, WV headed home from a work conference, so that left me and our beloved collie, Marco, to hold the fort down for the day. Yes, I had tons of editing I could have done, yes I could have taken care of some things around the house, but God told me, “Go get your camera and go for a walk.” Something I have learned in the last week of my life is to not ignore God when he speaks to you. Things he may say to you may see small, unimportant, or not what you really want to do, but what He speaks is always so important, necessary, and so full of life. Listen and follow no matter what. Even if he tells you to take a walk when all u want to do is stay buried under the quilt on the couch in your house shoes with your hair all a skew.
I threw on my tennis shoes, and didn’t touch my a skewed hair. I grabbed a sweatshirt, thankful the Lord called me to a walk on a day it was at least sunny and 45 degrees in this unappealing winter month. My parents live in what I like to consider “the boonies.” I grew up in this home with my parents and two brothers. I never appreciated the beauty around me and the stillness and quiet hum of the country. I didn’t appreciate neighbors who look out for you, watch your back, and always wave when they pass you whether they know you by name or not. It’s a world of its own untouched by the pollution of today’s fast paced, rude, out for yourself mentality you find in the more urban communities. All I thought as a teenager is “I have no cell service out here and my friends wouldn’t be able to find me out in this middle of nowhere holler if they wanted to because there’s no way this place can be picked up by satellites on a GPS.” Typical teen. Today, though, God introduced my old stomping grounds to me in a new light.
Our backyard is woods. Woods with briars, deer poop, fallen trees to trip on, and mud. Guess where God told me to go walk? Yep, the woods. Not around the pond, not down the road, not across our 2 acre CLEARED yard. He said, “double knot those laces and head for the tree line.” I’m thinking why didn’t I just get off my lazy rump and turn off America’s next top model and go start editing. Once I get in photo editing mode I’m pretty one-track minded and wouldn’t have heard a thing about takin’ a walk. With a sigh and a bratty response of “Ok God this better be worth it,” I trudged on. If I hadn’t been so concerned with the journey ahead of me I’d have obviously been able to work out in even my small-minded head that everything God tells you to do ends up being worth it. So I traveled on beyond the tree line into the dense woods.
Did I mention its all up hill? Did I mention its very dense? Did I mention its not the easiest place to consider taking a walk for recreation? Did I mention the briars EVERYWHERE? Well that’s the woods behind my parent’s house in a nutshell. I just walked. I had no idea of my destination. Granted if I did maybe I’d have been less apprehensive and trusting. So typical of me. I was grumbling to myself most of the way and was pulling briars off my clothes and skin shaking my head at this whole ordeal. I slipped on a wet fallen over tree and stepped in some sort of rodent poop. This was certainly shaping up to be a great time. Not exactly what a “walk with God” seems to look like in your head. You know I always picture those cheesy footprint on a beach pictures you see when I think of “a walk with God.” So calm, easy-going, not a care in the world. Just the breeze, the soft sand in your toes, the ocean’s sound rushing in your ears, and Jesus walking next to you asking How things have been. I think we all make that false assumption when we enter whole-heartedly into Christianity and even a real relationship with God versus just having religion. We assume its going to be that “walk on the beach” just chillin’ with Jesus. When in reality life is much more like my walk through the woods. Briars poking you from every side, slipping and falling, and inevitably landing in a pile of crap. They key, though, to your endurance through your walk in the woods is the faith that this is all going to be worth it. God has something really good in store for me once I reach my destination. I hadn’t really snapped many photos yet. Normally I do a decent job of training my eye to notice small “unimportant” or “boring” details. I realized long ago when visiting beautiful places that those overwhelming beautiful landscape images are just a bunch of those “unimportant” details clustered together to make this giant beautiful and breath-taking images that we all line up with our DSLR’s and fancy lenses to capture. I stopped to snap a picture of a pinecone hanging solitary on a branch when this small clover caught my eye. The forest floor was completely shadowed except for this small clover where the sun shone. It was this small green bit of life among these dead brittle leaves. It made me wonder if that’s what a true servant looks like to God from up above us? Does He look down at the Earth like I look down at the forest floor and see mainly just “the dead brittle leaves?” The cold-hearted, self-consumed, in-a-hurry people? Then as his eyes scour through desperately searching for just one willing servant, that green bit of clover in the sunbeam catches his eye? Seeming so small, insignificant, and easily over-looked, but its the green life that stands out and is different amongst the dead that has taken over the majority of the forest floor.
I thought well God what a nice little revelation you gave me there, but still couldn’t you have just found something similar a little closer to the house? A few less scratches ago could you have shown me a similar piece of clover? I felt a pull to keep going. For me to exert this much energy I can assure you it wasn’t my flesh or my own mind trudging me forward. I wanted to stop. I wanted to go back and just have enough of this crazy adventure. I had scratches all over my legs and arms where the briars went through my clothes, mud on my newer tennis shoes, and I smelled like outside. I hate smelling like outside it grosses me out. The hill got steeper, but it got to where I could see it kind of beginning to plateau off at the top, like a ledge or something. My curiosity sparked enough to push me onward. At this point I had easily walked 30-40 minutes. Just as I pull myself up the muddy side embankment to the top of that hill, my breath kind of caught in my throat at what lay in front of me.
It was beautiful. That seems hardly worthy of describing it, but what was this quaint whimsical little clearing doing at the top of this hill and tucked within four sides of briars, thickets, and mud? My eyes raced across the field hungrily. I couldn’t take it in fast enough. Normally I’m a very fast paced, 100mph all the time kind of person. I blame it on adult ADHD. But it seemed time stood still for a minute in that field. I couldn’t seem to get a picture to justify how pretty it was up here. I finally just settled for one I snapped real quick because I didn’t want to take pictures for once. I just wanted to explore this small clearing. I just walked. Not fast, but slowly, taking deep breaths to smell the musty rustic smell of the woods, touching everything and taking it in as I did, “Oh, that plant was smooth, that one was soft with its little tuft of cotton-like pollen on the top, OUCH! Briar…dang. Those random pricks of the briar kept me checked into reality that this wasn’t Heaven, but that I was still just a few hundred yards behind my parent’s house. I knew upon arrival to this clearing that discovering this small hidden treasure what God’s purpose for the walk. I felt it the minute I stepped into it. That catch in my breath, that warmth I felt in my chest despite my running nose and numb fingers. Jesus is here in this field and he wanted me to meet him here for something, but what? I didn’t try to force anything. I knew He would speak to me or show me once he was ready. I just kept walking in the almost too still stillness. I bent down and touched the wet earth, I stepped in a random puddle on purpose. I felt about 8 years old again for a minute. Like my biggest worry was just enjoying this moment. I felt like I was the only person in the world in that moment. I honestly felt like God loved me so much and wanted to dwell with me here in this moment because I was the only one here in this world and he of course would give the only person in the world his undivided attention. Then he began speaking to me.
I have been in a season of hell on Earth. Self-produced hell on Earth. I struggled with certain sin in my life that finally got the better of me and destroyed my life as I knew it and several other lives as well. I’ve been at my lowest for a few weeks. Naturally because one thing that I struggle so deeply with is being in control, I tried taking control into my hands initially and trying to band-aid it myself and manipulate the situation to work out for me. Typical me. It only made things worse when I began drowning in the problem because whether or not I was willing to admit it, it was way bigger than me or any solution I could produce on my own. I am the problem. Everything else that has happened to me are just symptoms of me being the problem, and there’s only one person who could truly fix this “problem.” That would be God. The ultimate person fixer. I had finally had enough this past week and decided for the first time in my life, “ Ok God I know I have claimed for a long time to truly love you and trust you, but instead of just letting that be empty words I’m going to give this a try. I’m going to give this over to you and trust you to do an incredible transforming work within me. This may seem like an everyday statement to some reading this, but when you struggle with the trust problems I do, and the inability to truly love like I do, this was big. So I’ve spent most of the week reading a book, being in the word, and just journaling and waiting to hear from God. That’s how I ended up in this field.
The Holy Spirit spoke and said to me, “Emily, there’s a reason you feel like the only person in the world right now. There’s a reason you feel like I am giving you my undivided attention, like you are my one and only; because you are. What you need to realize is I love you like you’re my only child on this Earth. I love you like you’re my favorite. And I want you to be so confident in my love for you and so sure of it that in your heart you truly feel that I favor you above all others and love you the most!” This thought seemed totally off the wall to me. Surely that wasn’t just God? But I knew it was. It was that “voice” of his that is unmistakable. It was a light bulb moment in this study of God’s love for me. God needed to get me away from everything alone in this field where I truly felt like It was just me and God in this field and nothing beyond it in the world existed for me to get a inkling of understanding of the serious depth of his love for me. The journey up the hill through the briars, mud, and poop is a little like the season I’m in now. Not enjoyable in the least bit but SO necessary in order to make it to my mountain top, or in this instance “hill-top” experience. The hill top was beautiful, serene, colorful, alive, and brought a genuine smile to my face, so much different from the dead bland forest I just made it through. Can you imagine if I’d given up on my walk? What if I’d said “I’m tired of getting stuck and pinched and stepping in stuff I’d rather see in a toilet bowl. I’m quitting. I’m going back.” I may have thought that the comfort of what I knew behind me, laying on the couch next to our big lazy collie with a bark bigger than his bite was great, but I would have NEVER experienced the beauty of the clearing. I wouldn’t have known a true reward for my work. I worked for that clearing experience. The reward made it all worth it. I had 30 minutes with Jesus.
I spoke out to the Lord, “God are you sure you want me? You know what I’ve done. All of it. You’ve seen it and I know there’s so many others more worthy of your time, dedication, and love. Are you sure, Lord?” I felt him all over me in that clearing. It wasn’t anything like I’m sure the Shekinah Glory experience with Jesus, Peter, James, and John. It was a sweet, reassuring stillness. It was his loving presence. He quickly reminded me of a song I had just been listening to the night before that was introduced to me by a dearly loved friend and prayer partner. It’s a Misty Edwards song and there’s a line in it that says,
“ I knew what I was getting into when I called you.
I knew what I was getting into when I said your name, but I said it all the same.
I knew what I was getting into, and I still want you,
I knew what I was getting into.”
God isn’t surprised in the least bit by my sinful behavior. He knew before I was ever conceived in my mother’s womb the life I would lead, the decisions I’d make, the sin I’d commit, but he said my name all the same. He called me all the same. He loved me all the same. He is so incredible. After just soaking in his love and presence for a while in that clearing I knew it was time to leave. I knew God had accomplished what he meant to with this “walk” and it was time to go. So I got up, and instead of heading back through the awful terrain and crud I made it through once, God led me to take a left and I ended up on a clear hill of my neighbor’s yard that lead straight down into our backyard. Naturally God spoke again and said, “Emily what you need to learn is you only need to go through that painful, hard, gross, up-hill journey once. Let me teach you holiness and righteousness through it, and with that, next time Satan baits you in that same way again, for he’s aware of your weaknesses, let me lead you through a much easier path to take that will lead you around it instead of through it.” God is so good like that. He is so good and so faithful.
I’m currently reading a book by Joanna Weaver entitled “Having a Mary Sprit.” There’s a passage in it that struck me when I got home and I went and immediately looked it up. It reads:
“Oswald Chambers writes: No one enters into the experience of entire sanctification without going through a “white funeral” - the burial of the old life. If there has never been this crisis of death, sanctification is nothing more than a vision. There must be.. A resurrection into the life of Jesus Christ. Nothing can upset a life, it is one with God for one purpose, to be a witness to Him. Have you come to your last days really? Have you come to them often in sentiment, but have you come to them really? …Death means you stop being. Do you agree with God that you stop being the striving, earnest kind of Christian you have been? We skirt the ceremony and all the time refuse to go to death.. Is there a place in your life marked as the last day, a place to which the memory goes back with a chastened and extraordinarily grateful remembrance- Yes it was then, at that “white funeral,” that I made an agreement with God. …Are you willing to go through that “white funeral” now? Do you agree with Him that this is your last day on earth? The moment of agreement depends upon you.”
I realized that moment in the clearing had just been my ‘white funeral.’ I shed a garment of my old life in that field and handed it in for a new one. It was almost like a rededication to Christ. I feel different. I looked the same on the outside when I got home; face scary and make-up less, hair a skew, lunch stained on my sweatshirt, but I know on the inside as I stared in that mirror it was different.
I’m not sure why Jesus wanted me to publish this because I can assure you my flesh is screaming, “Hit delete and act like you never wrote this nonsense!! Imagine what people will say and how they’ll judge you,” but for whatever reason Jesus plans on using this story and experience to help someone else. Maybe someone else feels as guilt stricken and beyond the love of God like I did before trudging up that hill. Maybe this will help someone realize your not alone, and your not beyond his reach. Maybe this will give someone just enough incentive to have their own “white funeral.” I urge you to, death never felt so alive.
Here's some photos I snapped on my walk today:
The view from my parent's front porch.
A plant from the Clearing
The clover-like leaf I make reference to.
As I entered into the clearing. It does it no justice at all, but its what I have.