The overgrown trail was dotted with purple, white and yellow in the spring. The whole area was called the “gullies.” Grabbing unto tree branches along the way, my senses filled deeply with the grassy muddy smell.
In the famous movie “Chronicles of Narnia,” when the character Lucy, finds her way through the coats in the wardrobe the world transforms before her eyes. When I slid the last tree branch aside on the way to my childhood sanctuary, my other world stood before me.
It was a sacred spot to sit, cry or pray. For me, it was my escape from all those hurts and pains which kept plaguing me during my child and teenage years. It was lovingly dubbed the “Pretty Place” by our family.
I felt like it was mine.
I knew others went there at times, but hoped no hunter or far-away neighbor would show up when I was out there. It was about a half mile walk behind our old farmhouse. It included woods, trails, and gully-like twists and turns, some of which were vertical and very deep. This un-tillable area sat almost right in the middle of the four roads that make up a country mile.
Long ago in my dad’s younger days, it had clearly defined two-track paths for tractors and wagons to go through to the field on the other side. The path was useful then, to get from one field to the other through the valleys and trees. When I was young I could still use the path although it was quite a challenge. The trees would sway in the wind and the sun would kiss my face as I basked in the innocence of childhood. After I crossed a large creek I’d walk walk off the path to the left, through the umbrella plants, up a knoll to the right, push a few tree branches to the side and there it would be. It was like opening the door to a church.
Arriving at the Pretty Place, sometimes I would stand at the top of the hill which seemed like a mountain when I was small. Looking down, there was a stream that ran from my far left side, wound around in front of me and then over to the right side. The stream about 30 feet below, had cut away at the earth and ran in a beautiful S shape.
There was a tree root to sit on at the top perfectly formed like a chair. Sometimes I sang my heart out and I dreamed I was a famous gospel singer. I might arrive in anger or quiet shock. At times, I sat on that root and cried until there weren’t any more tears left.
The Pretty Place didn’t demand anything of me. It just listened. I could scream or be silent, and it would return the same calm trickling sound. It would never tell me how to feel, or blow up at me. Even if my grief of losing my mom and sister overtook me, the stream of grace remained the same.
Just like God is.
I met God somewhere out in those fields and Pretty Place. I cannot tell you the moment or the day, or even the year. I just know He was always with me since I was a very young child. He was the only steady rock in my life. He didn’t die on me. He didn’t shout or fight, disappoint, or sneer sarcastically at me. He just listened. He accepted me the way I was. I didn’t have to put on airs of having it all together or stuff my grief down. I didn’t have to try to control anyone else or perform in a church service for Him. He loved me before I was even formed.
God walked beside me all the way to the gullies, and all the way back.
The Holy Spirit of God never condemned me if I was angry at Him. Lightning didn’t come down to strike me. Sometimes conviction would happen softly in my heart as a loving mother corrects her children in a whisper. If there was corn in the field that year, God’s words were like a soft clack of corn stalks swaying back and forth. If wheat was planted that year, the amber waves would create a gentle shhhhh sound like a loving gesture of a father putting his finger on his lips. It’s as if He said, “Just rest in Me, I will lead you.”
Ahhh….the sounds of His voice were there in the breeze through my hair. I have always been in His warm embrace.
Did you have a safe or comforting place to go when you were a child?