Colors and images seem vivid as I walk and pray my way along the familiar country road, blessed by its solitude. A very blue sky full of sunshine stands behind the forest of gnarled brown and gray tree trunks. Thick, woody vines drape from tree branches like tangled webs. An abandoned oriole nest hangs precariously from a branch high above. Broken heaps of dry leaves left from last fall peek out here and there from underneath a thick blanket of snow. Otherwise, sunlight reflects through countless snowflakes, threatening to blind me. Various tracks in the snow – dog, cat, rabbit, bird…car, and even sled – prove that these sights are not unique to ME.
I trudge along by myself, lost in the moment, breathing deeply of the cold air. Everything seems quiet so very still and without life. However, some little rodent evidently recently walked these same steps, for a skinny path wanders in the snow beside me – curving in wide, jagged arcs, almost like a tiny sled has been pulled along behind some wandering creature. Perhaps that little mouse was cold, I reason, and he chose to huddle along with slow, close little steps as he made a pilgrimage to some warmer, protected spot. The flattened trail left no evidence of individual footprints, only consistent movement.
That’s the way life is. It is a journey from one spot to the next – a journey that sometimes is defined by challenges and discomfort, a journey that takes time and deliberation and effort – and faith. I remind myself that it’s good to keep an eye on the destination.
As I tromp along, I ask God to walk with me, and talk with me.
“Lord, please stabilize my husband's heart, even heal and strengthen it. We’re just beginning to figure each other out, after all these years! I want us to have a chance to grow old together. I want him to influence our grandkids, to teach them. Work in him, Lord, give him more time to know and serve You.”
Crunch, crunch, the road is covered with choppy ice…but wait a minute, what’s that sound? I stand still and strain to listen. This is not the time or place for…a robin? No, that’s impossible. My hearing is so bad that I can’t even hear bird calls any more, Lord, you know that. Am I crazy? No, I am sure of it. Absolutely sure. I’m hearing the cheerful call of a robin.
I stop walking and frantically scan the tall pine trees standing along the road. There it is again – and again - the sweet call of spring’s first messenger, right here in the frigid, snowy cold of early February! As I try to spot him, white clouds of frozen breath puff in front of my face to fog up my glasses. I can’t see! Sadly, his song disappears after only three short choruses.
Hmmmm. The robin’s call is an appropriate answer to my prayer, Lord. It seems to say, “Spring is coming; new life is just around the corner. Trust God’s promises”. A single tear trickles from my eye in response. I don’t need to know the details that lie ahead, just that God is always in the process of creating and restoring LIFE.
I clumsily remove my breath-steamed glasses with mittened fingers and peer into the very tops of the pine trees. Why can’t I SEE him, Lord? Why can’t I verify his presence, and this unseasonal message? Why can’t I prove to myself that he really is here, singing to ME?
The answer? Because that is not what faith is about.
“Faith comes by hearing”…and I am called to….”walk by faith, not by sight.” And so, I continue my walk in the frozen death of winter, reassured by this harbinger of spring that new life always redefines death. This is the message of hope that sings in my heart.