Sharing the Fruit of God's Spirit

capture

 

As seen at LivingLutheran on September 22, 2016

Since leaving the mountain highway, I’d become very anxious. A girls’ weekend in Truckee, Calif., had included a day trip to my college roommate’s ranch in the Sierras. Sitting in the backseat of her extended-cab pickup truck, I bounced over rocky terrain and watched the road narrow precipitously. I was not prepared for a day in the mountains. No fiber of my being had ever wanted to commune with nature, yet here I was traveling through ponderosa pines and shallow creek beds on my way to some rustic destination in the woods. I didn’t have the nerve to ask where I’d be going to the bathroom.

My unease worsened. I didn’t mind that our girls’ time included a visit with my friend’s husband, Tim. I just minded that he wanted to take us on a guided tour of the area.

“Come on, girls. Let’s go see the sights!”

Minutes later I was gaping out the truck’s window, watching the narrow, dusty road give way to a trail that hardly seemed wide enough for hikers, let alone our over-sized six-wheeler. Staring in disbelief at the steep drop-off to my right, I could no longer make small talk about the scenery. I got right to the point: “Tim, it’s a long way down.”

He chuckled.

“Tim, how will we get back down?”

He chuckled again.

“Tim, how will we get back down?”

Hearing the anxiety in my voice, Tim teased, “Ha, ha. I’ll just back up.”

Hearing the anxiety in my own voice, I prayed: “God, I know you’re really busy. I know you’ve got a zillion things way more important right now, but I need to get out of here!”

My head whipped back and forth as we lunged over fallen tree limbs and forest debris. I needed no divine revelation to know there was no turning around. Until we reached the top, we had to keep going, higher and higher. I had to hope the trail would support a heavyweight pickup and be wide enough for the truck’s dual rear wheels—and that my nausea would pass. And then the answer to prayer: The trail widened, the sun broke through the trees, and a small grassy area opened before us.

Getting out of the truck, I walked cautiously to the edge of the road and found myself staring at a stunningly beautiful landscape­­­—a sparkling, blue lake below, emerald-green hillsides surrounding me. I marveled at the panoramic glory of God’s creation. My heart soaring, I stood on top of the hill in awe of the spectacular view, God’s magnificence shining brightly in the summer sun. Tim was right. I’d needed to see the sights.

Don’t we all? Don’t we all need moments above the trees for spiritual reflection? My own whimpered plea for help had been answered but not in the way I’d expected. God had responded to my self-indulgent request for escape with a beautiful reminder of God’s majesty. Now I stood before an unfolding vista. I may not have wanted to commune with nature, but I’d certainly needed to commune with the all-knowing, all-powerful God who’d created it.

Too often I’ve treated God like a glorified tour guide. I’ve decided where I’d like to go and then boarded God’s luxury motor coach, expecting a grand adventure with a climate-controlled interior, reclining seat and tinted windows for a picturesque view. I tend to enjoy my time with God as long as God takes me where I want to go, but when God has taken me places that are a little uncomfortable—a little steep and dusty, spiritually speaking—I’ve developed a short-sighted habit of looking at the narrow road and prayerfully asking God to get me back to something more comfortable. When Jesus refers to the “narrow road leading to life” (Matthew 7:14 NIV), my inclination is to think of easier, alternative routes.

It’s easy to get focused on the dust, the heat, immediate anxieties. At times God has had to take me “to see the sights” and get my attention in dramatic ways. In the Sierras, I’d had no real appreciation for where I was until I’d gotten above the trees and looked around. The same can be said for life.

No U-turns. Our travels with God are magnificent. So is the view.

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