― Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water
― Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
I whirl my Pathfinder into the corner of the gravel parking lot at the state park. With coffee in hand & a backpack of books, Bible, & hammock over my shoulder, I set out on a trail bordering the lake. With each twist & turn, it leads me farther away from the road, from people, from busyness. For the first time in a month, I’m alone.
Perched on a sharp incline, suspended between two trees, blue nylon holds me up. I gently swing over the ledge. Back. And forth. Back. And forth. Therapeutic rhythm. The great ball of light sits on the bows of pine trees covering the scene in a filter of hazy morning sunshine. Gentle rays illuminate ripples in the lake, pink flowers on the tops of a tree, an artist’s pallet full of greens on the underbellies of leaves. The light casts the shadow of the pen across the blank page of my journal.
I rock. Back. And forth. Back. And forth. Legs dangling in mid air.
Back. And forth. Pen scratches paper.
Back. And forth. Back. And forth. A splash across the inlet of lake.
Back. And forth. Raindrops fall from treetops.
Back. And forth. Back. And forth. Rock-ing. Swing-ing. Rest-ing.
Each rock forward & each rock back is a staggering emotion, a flash of memory, a blur of eternal to-dos. A busy schedule & high ambitions. Video tutorials & shoe fittings. A messy room & piles of papers. A high deficit of time. Where am I!? Yesterday, I would have told you I was in the middle of the Deep, treading water, straining every muscle to stay afloat, water gushing into my mouth, gasping for air. The weekend before, I was in the middle of a dance, twirling freely from place to place, smile as broad as the horizon, joy abounding with each new step. This morning? I am a girl in a worn, traveled grey dress, roaming the mountain with frizzy curls splayed in the wind, searching for the Shepherd.
“I’m overwhelmed,” I had told my grandparents the night before during our long distance call. “Darling, when since the age of 10 have you not been overwhelmed?” Good point.
So maybe I have been pushing it too hard. I stepped off the plane & hit the ground running with 3 road trips. Now I’ve increased to a sprint with a job & internship. I’m a runner, but how long can I keep this pace? On my first Sunday back, Pastor Bob compared our church to an aircraft carrier that refuels & resends its planes to new locations of work. “You might be the plane that’s been flying all over the world that now needs to land on this carrier & be refueled, renewed, & retooled,” said Pastor Bob. I had glanced up to make sure he was not looking right at me. As we stood for the benediction, I felt God say, “I’ve brought you home. It’s time to rest.” Salty droplets trickled down my cheek. Tears come often in church these days.
How do I rest, recover, learn, & work all at the same time? How do I keep a busy schedule, making the most of each opportunity God puts in my path, & feel rested?
Apparently I do not know the answer. I have been flying with pedal to the metal all week. I needed slowing down; maybe that’s why my knee swelled up after Monday’s run. In the past, God has spoken to me through injuries. Usually they happen during a time of rushing & busyness. Nothing quite slows you down like the all too familiar ache that threatens physical therapy. As I hang in the trees, I realize I would not have taken this time away if I had not been physically forced to rest from biking & running. He’s forced me to get away into my element, the outdoors, to create & be revived, to feel the freedom He’s blessed me with through written words. Ok God, You have my attention.
In the presence of God in these peaceful woods, the Spirit leads me to confess the very thing to which He has brought to my writer’s mind: the inability to rest. I must repent. I see my weakness & fall into the Shepherd’s strong arms. The embrace of grace. He rocks me back & forth & opens my eyes to His beauty surrounding me. Peace calms my soul storm. A breeze lifts the weight of the world. He tightens His grip around my feeble frame, & whispers in my ear, Behold what manner of love I have bestowed on you, that you are called a child of God. If you are My child, then you are an heir.
An heir! If I am an heir, then I am a princess. I am not a wondering peasant. I am a seed of Abraham. I belong somewhere. I have a home. And right now, I am sitting in that home! I am in the middle of God’s creation, His kingdom, not yet restored, but soon to be. I am in the house of my Father.
A breathless Wow falls from my lips. I lean back & gaze up at the canopy of leaves. Rocking back & forth. Swinging to a rhythm that’s cheaper than therapy. Soaking in the love that falls like the water droplets off of trees to land & soothe my heart.
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.”