Normally, I’d expect a walk in the woods to provide comfort.
That’s what getting back to nature is all about, right? Calming the spirit, clearing the mind, infusing one’s lungs with clean fresh invigorating air.
But the evidence mounts that we do not live in such simple times.
A proof-point recently presented itself when Gerri and I took a quick get-away trip to Echo Bluff State Park in south-central Missouri. I imagine the place is packed in warm-weather months. But with first hints of chill in the air, we pretty much had the place to ourselves – including the park’s signature Painter Ridge Trail.
A few hundred yards into the 2-mile loop, there it was – a most-confounding construction: a short stretch of boardwalk, not spanning any stream or gully, but simply there, in the middle of the path.
Or to be more accurate: complexly there – the “improved” path zigging and zagging through a stand of barren trees…headed to absolutely nowhere. Why would anyone blaze such a trail…in such a costly convoluted manner, I wondered?
Upon our return to the park’s lodge, the reason became clear: mountain bikes for rent – peddling a bit more of a physical challenge than my wife and I consider prudent, but probably just the ticket for the park’s younger visitors in a warm weather month. While a jagged boardwalk-in-the-woods might puzzle me, it’s precisely the sort of challenge a fat-bike afficionado would relish.
This desire-for-discomfort helps explain another minor mystery, too: a sign posted at the trailhead that seemed to discourage use of the trail. At least, that’s how an Old Dude reads it. A younger hiker (or biker) might exclaim “Sweet!” when reviewing this selfsame catalog of hazards.
And for the people of God, this describes our Advent challenge, does it not? To view the particular hazards in our lives, and perhaps even the brokenness of our entire culture, through a different set of eyes?
The prophet Isaiah encourages us to see – in the coming of Christ – a way through all such imposing obstacles:
A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.
Indeed: Christ is the Way, even where there is no obvious way through our hardships. The prophet makes the promise:
Here comes, with power, the Lord GOD…
May we all be blessed with the grace to see our obstacles – through Advent eyes.
Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.