During college preview days at PUC when I was 17, I skipped an entire afternoon of meetings because the old steps behind Winning Hall led me to this meadow. The towering pine at the meadow’s edge beckoned me to climb, and I climbed so high, I could look out over the hills and vineyards of Anwgin. At the top of that tree, I sat shivering in the afternoon wind for almost an hour – a girl on the cusp of everything – and I prayed. I prayed that God would bless me there at PUC, where I knew I would attend college that fall. I asked Him to lead me – into the right major, the right path, the right life. I begged Him to help me become the person He designed me to be, whatever and whoever that was. I thought happily of all the future days I would spend in this meadow with Him, throughout my years at PUC. But it wasn’t to be. Instead, I climbed down that tree, left the meadow, and never came back again.
Close to 20 years later, visiting PUC with my own family, I found those old steps and I walked up the overgrown, yellow leaf-blanketed trail to the meadow. I instantly spotted the tree I climbed as a teenager, and we ran to it – my boys and I – briars catching on our pants and burrs sticking to our sleeves. I wanted to climb it again, but no longer could we reach its lowest limbs. Time had done its work. From the ground, I peered up into the branches and thought of all that might be different about my life, had I not gone to Union, not taken theology, not met Greg, not married him and followed him to Auburn, Washington…
Maybe it was the chill of the wind that made me wrap my coat around me tighter just then, but I think it also might have been the chill of conviction. It’s humbling to admit that at every single crossroads in my life, each and every time I’ve sensed God leading me somewhere, I’ve never wanted to go. Not once. Not ever. Not even one solitary time have I followed His leading happily and immediately. I always put up a fight. Always got angry. Always pouted and resisted and begged Him to let me have my own way, instead of asking me to follow His.
But I’m always wrong, the meadow laughed. At every single place I’ve begrudgingly followed my unpredictable Leader to, within no time at all, I find myself down on my knees in praise. Heart overflowing with gratitude. “Thank you for bringing me here,” I have consented over, and over, and over again. “Thank you for knowing me better than I know myself.”
It’s Thanksgiving time. I’ve spent the week trying to reflect on what I’m thankful for – all my blessings, my family, my friends, my plenty. But the meadow rearranged that list for me today. I realized that one of the things I’m most thankful for in all the world, is a God who doesn’t do what I want Him to do. And that’s hard, because I’m still so often convinced that He’s wrong. That I know best. That He SHOULD do what I want. Faith’s handle scratches uncomfortably in my hands, even after all this time. I don’t like to choose it. I want my own way. But the meadow’s silent witness sentences me: just about everything I count myself lucky for, has been given to me while I was pleading with God for something else.
As the autumn afternoon sun set through the trees, I put my arms around my 2 sons and said yet another “thank you.” A thank you for changing all my plans. A thank you for dozens of pushes out of my comfort zones. A thank you for all the trials and all the failures and all the No’s, because it led me here: to these boys, to this life, to a deeper joy than I’ve ever been able to manufacture for myself. I’ve longed so profoundly for the simple luxury of planning out my own life. But where would that have left me? Clearly, He is a better Guide than I could ever hope to be.
I don’t know if I’ll ever learn to make faith automatic. But I know that if He’s calling you somewhere? Well…I say – Go. Follow. Leave the safety of the meadow behind. Your heart’s Designer has something so much better in mind.