Today I venture off the usual broad path through the mowed natural grasslands. I wander onto the narrow, curving paths that transport me into a tree filled shadow land, cool and welcoming. I marvel at the quiet calm, broken only by the sound of my footsteps and the intermittent calling of birds, searching for their mates. The shadows provide a welcome respite from the late afternoon sun. This twisting dirt path through the woods supplies shade for my body and relief from the sun’s glare. As I travel through these woodland paths, I must carefully watch where I place my feet, for tree roots criss-cross my way. While absorbing the beauty around me I remain aware of the roots below, surfacing on the trail.
I remember another time, another path, other tree roots. It was prom night. My boyfriend (now my husband) and I went to prom with two other couples, both good friends of ours. After prom we walked in the woods, enjoying the pre-dawn scenery and longing to watch the sunrise together. My friend Becky walked in front of me and her boyfriend Bob walked in front of her. As we trekked down a steep incline, Becky caught her foot on one of the tree roots and fell forward, screaming a long, drawn out “Bob!” Bob, who walked several feet in front of Becky, and was at the bottom of the incline, calmly turned and caught her. Her toe stayed captured by the tree root, and her body stretched parallel to the ground, her foot at the top of the incline and her upper body shoulder high to Bob, who caught her from below. She escaped injury because Bob held her safely in his arms. Over the years Scott and I have often laughed over this incident. Although Becky’s tripping could have injured her, all turned out well because of Bob’s calm, steadfast nature; he safely caught her, preventing harm.
Continuing my woodland walk, I focus on the roots beneath my feet. I realize the tree roots that I can see on my path represent only a small portion of the roots filling the ground below me. Throughout this woodland the roots grow under ground, only occasionally surfacing along my path, only occasionally visible to my eyes. A passage of scripture runs through my mind, over and over: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). Just as the roots create a vast network in the ground below me, so my Father’s arms stretch beneath me, ready to catch me when I fall, ready to support me when my walking falters. Even when I cannot see His arms, they are underneath, providing comfort, providing strength. All I need to do to feel the strength and comfort of His arms is to call out His name. Just as my friend Bob caught Becky in his arms when she called out his name, so my God will catch me in His arms. I may stumble, but He will catch me; He will protect me.
Two weeks ago, at my high school reunion, I learned that Becky had died earlier this year. Even though we had not kept in touch, I mourn the loss of a dear friend. But I am comforted by two images: Bob catching her on that walk in the woods and our heavenly Father catching her in his everlasting arms. Never again will she fall. Never again will she need to call out for help, for she rests in our Father’s arms.