Ann Voscamp once said in her book 1000 Gifts, 'Why all this running?' Of course that question got my attention. She didn't literally mean running. She meant running around. Running from. Running to. She was asking herself where is satisfaction in life- why always running for more, for better? What do you run from? Who do you run to? My mind immediately went to all the miles my legs have logged. Why do I do it?
Because I can.
But mostly because that is when I hear God speak to me.
More and more so in recent years I spend much of my time alone. Not by choice. My challenge in this season of my life is to not allow loneliness into my head. God has called me into this place of being alone, but it is the devil who invites loneliness to come along. I am learning the way to victory in this struggle is in giving thanks, all the time, for all things. One of the ways I am learning this 'eucharisteo' thanks is through the running.
The sun has warmed the air of spring. New life is coloring the world around me as winter waves goodbye. I am excited to run and become part of the landscape- to see and hear, to smell, to breathe deep- and thank God who does all this. So I run through neighborhood streets, past Tulips and Daffodils, past dogs barking from backyards, across the highway lined with fields, fences and tall grass. Geese flying home. Deer grazing by the edge of the woods. I turn at the brown sign announcing the entrance to the Civil War Battlefield. The road is narrow and peaceful, winding down and around and up again. Deeper into the woods, across the creek. Only the sound of the breeze blowing in the tops of the trees.
I am alone...but loneliness did not come with me. I pray-"God will you speak to my heart? And help me to listen so I will hear you. And help me to look so I will see you." I look for Honeysuckle. It is tangled and twisted along the side of the road. Fragrance is bottled behind the blooms that have not yet burst. White Dogwood blossoms are sprinkled along the road and far into the woods. No wonder they are named the state flower of Virginia. A long time ago the wood of the Dogwood tree grew straight, strong and tall but as the legend goes, their trunk is now gnarled and twisted. Some say the Dogwood was used to make the cross that Jesus hung on. Who knows if that is true but it is interesting to think of the symbolism associated with the Dogwood Tree. If you look closely at the pure white flower you can't help notice it is shaped like a cross, with a crown in the center. At the ends of the cross beam, where the nails would have held Jesus' hands, are small holes in the petals, with a drop of red dripping. Almost looks like it tore, by mistake, and then you realize every single blossom is like that, torn. Dripping. Every single one. No mistake.
It's perfect. God's simple design in the flower of a tree to symbolize the beauty of the King reaching out to me. To the world. Good Friday has passed. Resurrection Day has passed. God has a story to tell.
The blossoms are high in the trees. It's difficult for me to see the detail of the flowers as they reach for the sun. My eyes follow the small branches, winding around and through oaks and maples and weeds, looking for the trunk of the tree.The branches are long, they bend and twist. The trunk of the tree is nestled in the leaves, far away from the edge of the road, among much bigger trees. The trunk is firmly planted, roots growing deep into the ground, giving life to those beautiful blossoms that have grown toward the sun. Blossoms that have grown toward the SON. God's love reaches me.
I see it clear. From the dark place, deep in the woods, into the light. His love reaches. His love IS THE LIGHT. The white blossom at the end of the long branch tells the story of the One who is the Light of the World. It tells of the vine and the branches. The one who does not remain in the vine bears no fruit. We, like the blossoms of the Dogwood have a story to tell.
God's love reaches for me. I see Him. I hear Him. His voice is the only sound. He reaches me and I am not alone. God reaches through the trees in the forest. He reaches into dark places in our life. He reaches across oceans. Across time. Across hurts and failures and cross words. He reaches into brokenness. And brings healing. Beauty. Light. New Life.
I find a branch that is hanging low. I pinch off a twig with two day old blossoms. I carry it with me as I run all the way home. I place it in the vase on the table, empty ready to fill.