(thanks to Kimberly Parker for this picture)
Growing up at Girl Scout camp in central Indiana every summer taught my sisters and me so much about life. There we learned to swim, canoe and sail. We learned the beauty and joy of singing rounds. There the seeds were planted in us to love walking – anytime, everywhere. There we learned to pitch tents, build fires, and cook outside. It was there that I came to love and appreciate nature.
When we would go away on 3- or 4-day canoe trips we would find a spot under a tree and build fires at night. I remember one time when I was 12 or 13, I started making a clearing under a big, old elm tree. One of the counselors told me that I was way too close to the tree. I remember wondering what difference that made. She said that a tree’s roots stretch out as far as her branches. If we built the fire where I was setting up, the fire's heat could hurt the roots. I remember stepping back, back, back away from the tree, trying to see that old tree and get my head around what she said. When I finally was back as far as the branches were out, I looked down at the ground and imagined seeing the roots stretching out just as far. It was an 'ah-ha' moment for me then and I carry it still. That might have been one of the first times in my life that I realized that life was happening all around me (below and above) in ways that I couldn’t always see.
So it is with faith. If you asked me these days what I believe, my answer would be slow in coming. For me, I find comfort and strength in that old lesson from building fires outdoors. What you can see is true, but what is also true is what you cannot (yet) see.
It would be difficult for me to stand up in front of a room of people and give a lecture using book-smarts about faith. But ask me to tell you about my faith using stories, and I could fill up the time - and then some. Stories hold the past and the present in the same moment. It's as though (somehow) we can be in two time zones in the same instant. I am here, but in my heart I am back where the story was taking place. Stories of life-lessons like this one when my counselor showed me how to see a tree's roots by looking at her branches. Stories of times with people who have been my companions and guides. Stories of hits and misses. Stories of moments when time stood still. Stories that have held me, and God-willing, will continue to teach me and lead me on. Stories that remind us that there's so much more to life than what we can see just yet. There they are...stretching way-out and on up ahead.