Back in 1998 my husband John surprised me with a visit to the redwood forests of northern California. We drove along winding, sun-dappled roads between stands of trees that could have shamed the greatest cathedrals of the world. Unfortunately, our two-year-old son Nathanael didnít appreciate the view as much as I did. He kept himself busy by vomiting frequently and enthusiastically. Infant Phillip alternated between sleeping and crying. Both children needed frequent stops for cleanups, and Phillip required quite regular feeding.
The redwoods remained unperturbed, oblivious to such inconveniences.
I didn't accept the challenges quite so easily.
My husband sensed my growing frustration and pulled off of the road so I could get out and look around. I walked alone, cherishing the silence, and soon found myself in a very small clearing among the trees.
My mind normally teems with words, but this ancient clearing took both my breath and the words away. In that beautiful place, for perhaps the first time in my life, silence found its way clear through to my soul.
Holy awe slowly descended on meÖon me, an ordinary, unsuspecting homemaker. It drew me in despite my unworthiness, despite the spit-up on my clothes and the sin in my soul.
I did not bring this awe with me into the forest. I found it already there. I stumbled into a worship service, presided over by the oldest saints I had ever met. Towering, ancient, faithfulÖthe redwoods stood in silent adoration as they had done for centuries, even millennia. Trees which began praising before Christ walked the earth still lifted their leafy hands that day.
Native Americans revered these trees, and I can understand why. My soul felt the pulse of worship which throbbed in that place, and my whole being joined in its rhythm. I exulted in it, losing myself as I eavesdropped on this intimate communion between creature and Creator.
Godís Spirit danced for joy within me. He had never felt so at-home inside of me before. And without Him, I would have begun to revere the redwoods as so many others have done. But those trees did nothing to deserve my awe. They simply responded as all creatures freely do when unhindered by a sinful nature. They rejoiced in their Creator, and yearned for the day when the curse of humanityís sin will be lifted. This is what they have always done, and for a few brief moments God pulled back the veil and let me feel what they feel about Him.
If the redwoods could have noticed my intrusion, I know what they would have said to me. Worship. Worship. Worship. They could have said nothing else, for this is what consumed them. This is what they drew up through their roots and respired into the air around them. I felt privileged to breathe in that air and mingle my adoration with theirs, even for a few moments.
I wish I could say that I walked away from that clearing with an attitude of worship that has never left me. Unfortunately I canít. At that time in my life I had no idea of the many trials and heartaches that awaited me. I could not have imagined that the next few years would bring such unrelenting pain that I would cry out against the very same God who once inspired such reverence in me. I could not have imagined that I would tell Him that I hated Him. But I did. Thatís another story.
Could it be that God gave me those precious moments with Him because of the trials that would soon overtake me? I believe He did. Life is still very hard in many ways. I still get angry and feel distrust toward God. But my doubts about His love and goodness melt away whenever I remember my time among the redwoods. When I remember, I think of more than just the clearing and the feelings I felt there. In my heart I see my Father, lovingly bending down and touching my eyes so I could glimpse the truth behind Creation. I hear Him reassuring me that I will be all right, because He really is there, even when I canít see or feel Him. I am comforted to know that the deepest realities are not the ones before my eyes, not the ones which trample my nerves and break my heart. Right now, in a realm more real than my own, all of creation continues to pour forth praise just as powerfully as it did that day.
And God continues to deserve it just as much.
Maybe, if I listen carefully, I will hear that song once more.