Many of the tools in my life’s toolkit are gleaned from my childhood in the rural, Northern countryside where I grew up. The woods were a wonderful playground but they are also rich with metaphors for life, that I draw on continually.
There was a magnificent trout stream that bordered our property. The creek ran dry in the hot summers and would overflow the roads in Springtime. It boasted enormous steel culverts in two different places where the water crossed the roads. The metal tunnels allowed for the free-flow of water when the creek ran high. In many cases the creek would swell to several feet deep, and threaten to wash out the road during flood seasons. The water flows fierce and cold in Michigan. And yet there is a profound beauty, even an explosion of delight when Springtime edges its way North.
It’s difficult to aptly describe how well our family knew the creek and those woods, and the way in which they were our home as much as our house was. The trees were friends. Maple leaves rustling in the Fall. Deep snow crunching beneath our feet. The symphony of starlight that ushered many a midnight walk through woods. These were the background music we learned to love.
After I’d moved to the southeastern states, there was one season in particular when I’d lost my way, emotionally, spiritually. The path was dark, and my emotions were raw. My was heart ransacked. As a girl who had grown up knowing True North instinctively, I’d lost my bearings. In that season the Lord reminded me of being at the creek, of walking through the culvert. Every ridge and root. The rock formations that had shifted from winter’s enormous beds of ice. The trees that leaned over the water. New Adder Tongue and Jack in the Pulpit poking their way up through the frozen earth. The pungent earth yawning it’s solidarity with the trees.
Yet my heart was reminded of the way the sun glinted against the shards of ice. There was a mountain of ice and the blazing sun creating a cacophony of brightness. The silence in my heart thrummed with nature’s symphony once again. I could feel the dormant winter earth longing for Springtime, just as my heart ached to be whole again.
When Springtime comes at the culvert the energy and direction are unspoken and vivid. Before long, the water would rush through and fiercely demand passage out into the fields and the creek bed would press it’s way into the mighty Black. Fierce and full and without reserve. The pain of growth and transformation are memories left with Winter’s crunching snow beneath the icy moon. I would find my traction, and True North would expose itself to my spirit again.
Your Springtime will come again. But for now, take a deep breath. Rest well, my friend. Unravel panic and trauma, and Winter’s yawning ways. As you rest, the warmth of sunshine will melt the shards of ice that have clung to your soul, and you will laugh again. You are worthy. You are loved.
Be at peace.
One of my favorite activities as a kid was to traipse around in the woods on the back part of our property. We didn’t have a lot of land, a small acreage, but it was plenty for us. There was a nice deep woods that outlined a good-sized field. There was a terrific trout stream that followed the property line, and my Dad used to say that it was the finest Brook Trout stream in Northern Michigan. That’s debatable, I’m sure, but the water always ran clear, and cold. A beautiful golden color.
I was just in Northern Michigan this summer, and had a chance to bound around my old tromping grounds in my Jeep. There was no hurry, really. In the early morning hours, I sat at the edge of the deep Black Lake and listened to the waves lapping the shoreline. Just like the streams that fill it, the lake water has always been a brilliant gold.
When I was young, my parents would take my family for Sunday drives out to different points of interest along the shores of the Great Lakes. We’d make a summer day trip up to the dunes on US-1, along the lower portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Other times we’d head further up into the UP, to Neebish Island, or to locks at Sault Ste. Marie. No matter where we went, each destination was packed with different meaning. Sometimes we’d picnic on the sand dunes. The sun was so close and hot that we’d burn like bugs on a windshield. Wave after pounding wave, we’d dash into the frigid cold water and then dance around in the piping hot sand, burning our feet. Later we’d eat the fabulous meat pies for which that region is known. Wrapped in sandy blankets and still sticky in our swimsuits we’d tuck into the truck and head for home.
A girl raised in Kansas might not be able to explain the way a Kansas wheat field is an inextricable part of her. It’s in this way that water is truly a part of who I am. It’s also a part of how I perceive God’s glory. God’s creation is a way in which He expresses His glory. He shows us who He is. There is nothing quite like watching a strawberry sunset on the rolling hills of Nebraska. It’s like He’s saying, “Ask Me to tell you who I Am, Samantha.” And so I respond, “Well, Father. Who are You, and what do You want me to know about You today?” And He says, “Watch this.” And without delay, He unfurls this array of colors in the sky, and the naked branches of the trees dare to impose themselves on the horizon. And I am overwhelmed.
And so it is with the lakes and the Great Lakes, and the seas…
God spoke to Job after he’d been through much trial and terrific suffering at the hand of satan. It’s the most prolific conversation between God and man, that we see in Scripture, aside from the Son’s 33 years here. And, even though Job was generally found to be righteous, he made the mistake of minimizing God’s holiness. God is like no other. That’s what holy means, set apart. It’s in this conversation that God chooses to tell Job about Himself through a series of questions. Part of it goes like this..
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
… Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop’?” Job 38
And then I read it as though the Father is asking me the same questions. “Where were you, Samantha, when I laid the foundation of the earth?” I think about the magnificent creative expression God has given with just the shoreline alone… “Or, who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth it went out from the womb…”
Oh we’ve so much to learn about God and to let Him be God.
You see, when you are in relationship with this God who longs to know you personally, it’s okay that He’s big. And magnificent. And that you’re small. I am small. I love to be small, and to show you my giant God. He’s huge! Ask Him to show you who He is. Then stand back and be amazed as He unfurls a sunset, or a captivates you with the wonder of a single snowflake as it lands on your nose. Allow yourself to be amazed at His glory.