No worries. It won’t be a regular thing. I am learning more and more how I desperately need my church family, and how our coming together in communal worship is so central to the rule of life in God’s Kingdom.
All the same, I took an opportunity I have been looking for for several months now. With the invitation of my boys and husband to an early church service, followed by a lunch out and an NFL football game, I found myself with a whole eight hours of kid and husband-free time. I have been giddy for a week anticipating the hours of quiet and solitude.
I would have used these hours differently a year ago. My to-do list constantly threatened to invade my thoughts, and it would have then. But, the last few months have been incredibly powerful ones for me. I have been learning so much, of how to draw nearer to God through spiritual practices, like solitude and silence. Sunday, I submitted these hours to God for these sacred things.
As part of my time alone, I felt led to take a walk. It is early December, and should be cold and grey. Instead, the day had the most perfect weather ever for a contemplative prayer walk. With temps in the mid 60’s (I’m guessing) and virtually no clouds, the blue sky was a perfect backdrop for prayer and wrestling while being surrounded by nature.
As I have mentioned before (here), I have a lovely walking route that I take. I have seen it in spring, summer and fall and it gets more beautiful as the year goes on. One of my favorite parts is after a rigorous uphill climb, which is rewarded every time by a scene of open fields lined with trees, hills and bluffs as far as you can see. It is bordered by red or faded old barns, farmhouses, and even a century old school house. I always pause and breathe deep, not only because I feel like I am going to die after the climb, but because the beauty is one to take in fully.
Sunday, with my abundance of time, I decided to cut across those fields. With the current season the risks of treading on snakes and being covered in Tennessee ticks felt slimmer and I was anxious to experience this space differently. And, that I did.
As I walked through the fields, I saw my favorite view in a whole new way. I saw different perspectives of the old barns, and of the tree-lined lane I could see through the leafless trees far away on the other side of my route. I saw the fields differently when I stood in the midst of them. They felt bigger, and I felt totally engulfed in them.
One of my rewards for walking this loop is to collect plant-life along the way. In the spring it was greenery of every shape and size. In the summer there were different wildflowers blooming every time I went. The early fall was all about the different colors of changing leaves. Sunday, with the colorful flora long gone to make way for winter, I saw before me golden colored beauty. Despite the monotone palette, I was struck with the amazing nature of it. The amazing nature, of death. These plants were dead, and dying. The grasses and stems that were laden with colorful reminders of God’s artistry just a bit ago were transformed through its new season into a new thing. Still beautiful, I decided.
Dying, but beautiful.
So, I collected. I collected different grasses, different seed-heavy stalks, different dried up flowers, and wispy wheat-like things.
Maybe I am drawn to these because I am learning to appreciate the beauty of these seasons; the ones of innately awe-inspiring colors and the ones of dull, seeming lifelessness. I am learning to appreciate death, as it is a necessary part of the cycle of each living thing. The plant’s death is not a disappointment, or a failing. It is just the season it is in, established by nature, set into motion by the very life that defined it. It was coming, sooner or later. Its death is completing its cycle of the life it was created for. There is beauty in that.
I have died a few deaths on my journey to being transformed by Christ. A few on that walk, actually. Small deaths, where I realize my passive, unfair judgments of others, or when I have had to confess overt sinful choices. I have had a few bigger, more difficult ones the past few months, when I have had to face beliefs that were based on lies, or coming face to face with hidden sins. But, each death makes way for new life. Each death, like the cycle shared by the fields, brings something to a place where it completes its purpose and lauds the coming of something new in its season.
So, as I pick these dead things, I am remembering how beautiful my soul may seem to God, a full of things willing to submit to the seasons of death, for life’s sake.
Being transformed is hard work. Death is not always beautiful, as compared to full, vibrant, colorful life. But, it is so essential for making way for the season of growth.
I am noticing that my vase full of dead things is actually a treasure chest of seeds of dozens of different things that will find new colors in its season. Oh, that we will submit ourselves to the small deaths that give us new seeds for the springs of our souls.
It was a good walk. I did not miss worship, after all.
Spirit come, transform me like the grasses in the fields in their seasons.