I left the house, most likely barefoot, and started walking through the woods. There was a path that had been worn in the dirt from all the other times I had walked this path. It is what I did when I needed to clear my head, ponder something, or escape from the stressors of teenage life. I would later have the epiphany that what was really happening was prayer. I was communing with the Creator.
There was an old stump by the creek where I would go and sit and think . . . . .I mean, pray.
The first time I was to go on a youth mission trip when in high school, something came up and I decided that I wasn’t going to go. I don’t remember what I said it was. If I were to be honest with myself, it was probably nothing more than fear. Fear of doing something new for the first time. Fear of not knowing what was going to happen. That’s how fear works, isn’t it? It traps you into thinking that there is something more important to do than that which God has called you to – even if it’s for a moment (or a week).
In the moment, I didn’t know why I didn’t want to go on this trip. And I couldn’t tell Mom and Dad the reasons either. Dad never made me do anything I didn’t want to do. But, if I was not going to go, I had to tell our youth leader myself that I wasn’t going. After listening to me, the youth leader gave me shocking advice. He told me to go to the old stump in the woods and pray about it.
I did do that, but I went wondering how he knew about the stump in the first place. I don’t remember ever saying anything about it before. But he knew. And it was sound advice, even if it was a little creepy.
I don’t remember the nature of my prayer that day. I don’t remember any words that I used. I recall that I simply walked to the stump, where I sat in silence for some time, before walking back. At the time I wouldn’t have called it meditation, but perhaps that’s what it was.
Bishop Cho, the United Methodist Bishop for the Virginia Conference, recently wrote:
We believe in a living God revealed in Scripture, especially in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The God in whom we believe is still alive. Being a Christian means having a relationship with this living God. If our faith remains as only information or knowledge about God, our relationship with God will be ‘I and it.’ But, if we have a fellowship with this living God, our relationship with God will be ‘I and Thou (You).’ Prayer is about this relationship with our living God.
Those walks through the woods, the time sitting on the old stump, and other moments spent in nature, are times that draw me close to the Creator. Although I no longer have the no stump to walk to, when I feel that my relationship with God needs some attention, I turn to nature.
A hike through the mountains. A walk through the leaves.
Whatever happened on that stump that day, I came away knowing that I needed to go on that mission trip. It turned out that was the week that I would begin to truly hear God’s call on my life.