It’s interesting how nature imitates life.
This week a girlfriend and I went hiking on a local forest trail. It stretched under the shadows of tall pines and along a small stream.
We were absorbed in our conversation, until, we passed him.
On the edge of the trail was a man, tucked into the hollow of a tree. All we could see was head, shoulder, and arm. His head buried in the curve of his elbow, hair partially covering his weathered face, and his lips clenched forming a thin frown. His large muscular shoulder protruded from the stump. His left arm embraced the tree’s bark. It was difficult to tell if he was trying to brace himself from falling deeper into the hole or pushing to fully disappear.
It must have been so difficult to shove himself into the tree hollow, even harder to confront what kept him captive.
He was motionless. His eyes remained masked creating an awkward interaction. We couldn’t help but wonder how long he had been there, why, what it was going to take for him to move on?
We didn’t want to disturb him, so we backed up slowly, turned, and walked away.
I’ve thought about this man several times since the walk. He was stuck by his own doing, or the will of others, and based on his weathered appearance, he had been there awhile. Perhaps, he lost motivation, his confidence, or his strength to make a change. Nonetheless, he was firmly planted.
And this is where life so completely imitates nature.
I think as we travel through our lives, we can get stuck. Stuck along the paths to our dreams, the desert lands of our hopes, and in the storms of our regrets. We find ourselves taking refuge in the hollows of our minds – hiding, waiting.
People pass, family console, friends persuade but we hold tight to the edges of our self-imposed confinement. We back further into the darkness until we are no longer perceptible, no longer seen, and we wait.
The book of Genesis shares the story of the first man and woman. Created by God from dust and rib, they enjoyed intimacy with the Creator of the Universe. They were innocent, sinless.
An act of disobedience left their naked bodies’ draped in shame and guilt. Closeness with their Father shattered; they searched for a place to hide. They found refuge concealed amongst the trees.
And once there, they waited.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
Genesis 3:8-10 New International Version (NIV)
Scripture goes on to share that God found Adam and Eve. I can imagine they were on hands and knees crouched at the base of a large tree. Their arms tightly wrapped around its bark, entwined in each other’s, eyes closed, lips forming a tight grimace.
They opened one eye and then the next, looking directly into their Father’s eyes. And as they nervously exhaled and stood to face Him, they were reminded how their disobedience and sin had driven them to hide. The separation caused pain and fear to rise in Adam and Eve’s hearts and although there were significant consequences for their disobedience, God was merciful. He never stopped loving them.
When we fail, pull away, and hide it is always comforting to know, God never stops searching for us. He never stops offering mercy. He never stops loving us.
I went back to visit the man in the woods. I had questions I needed to ask him. I wanted to see if he had made any changes – retreating further into what held him captive or perhaps making some progress towards freedom.
But as I approached the clearing, I saw the tree laying on its side, the trunk cut into large pieces, the branches removed and neatly piled.
The man was gone.
On the walk back to the car, life, nature, and God’s words merged to remind me – we don’t have to hide, building a fortress to protect us from ourselves, life’s disappointments, and the consequences of our sins. We can be free, just like the man in the tree, just like Adam and Eve.
When we stand, look into our Father’s eyes, and accept his amazing sacrificial love –
We find mercy,
We experience grace,
We are free.
Be Blessed His BeLOVED,
Take a few minutes to listen to this beautiful reminder of God’s love.