I wrote this several years ago when we lived in Stow, Ohio. For those we met there and at The Chapel, this is a sweet, sweet memory…
I went for a walk this morning. It was bitter cold, but the sun was out. And I mean out—the kind of brightness that makes you squint. The air felt so sharp and clean. It was one of those days that just seemed to welcome me, a great day for a walk.
Sometimes I wonder how a person—especially someone like me—can just jump into God’s presence. I mean, think about it. Suddenly, I’m before God? Doesn’t seem possible. Makes me hesitate a little. But I tell myself he’s there. He’s listening. And then I just start talking.
The neatest part is that it snowed last night—eight inches! Some places the snow drifted even deeper. I almost turned back, it was so rough. But I decided it was the kind of day I just couldn’t miss. So I kept going.
I’ve heard it’s best to start with praise. Seems like a good way to begin. I think about my warm, cozy house when there are so many who are homeless. It does need the roof repaired, however, and some work done on the backyard. I thank him for my health, that I’m able to walk today. Though I’m trying to fight off a cold. And then I stop. I can’t believe it. I’m thanking him and griping at the same time. The dilemma of transparent prayer hits me: How do I keep my eyes on him—and not focus on me? How do I be truly thankful?
I always take the same pathway through the woods—one with logs and holes and tree branches. Any of that could easily trip me up, meaning I must carefully watch where I’m going. The deep snow makes it that much trickier because I can’t see those buried obstacles. I have to walk really cautiously—watching the ground. It’s slow going, that’s for sure.
So I decide to really concentrate. And you know what happens? The more I try, the more distracted I get. How frustrating! One minute I’m thanking him, and the next instant I’m thinking about what someone said the other day. Why must my prayer time be such a struggle? I mean, will it get easier for me someday? Or is it always going to be like this?
There’s so much to look at in the woods. Squirrels chasing each other. Birds flitting by. I even surprise a deer. I stop myself for a moment—if I look up and around too much, sure as anything I’ll trip. So I keep my eyes on the pathway. I glance up now and then, but the concentration on where I’m heading—that’s essential.
Then suddenly it’s like this wall goes up between me and God. I know I’m the one who put it there. But there’s something … something I need to confess. And I just can’t.
Finally, I come to the edge of the woods. And I stand there. Awestruck. Paralyzed for a moment.
You see, I’d done something wrong that I’ve done before. I was so sorry the last time. I begged God to forgive me. I promised that I would never, ever do it again. But I did.
The snow is so perfect—totally untouched—that I can’t do anything but stand there for a few moments. I mean, who am I to mess it up? What right do I have to track into that perfection?
My shame is overwhelming. How can I ask him to forgive me again? I know, I know…you don’t need to tell me. I’ve heard the sermon about Peter and how God forgives us seventy times seven. But that was Peter. This is me. And I don’t know if I can face God yet again with this same thing.
It’s almost more than I can take in. Thick snow covers everything—every single flaw. It’s really amazing, because I remember what this field looked like a few days ago. Someone left trash under the old maple—I’m sure it’s still there. And the grass is worn away in several areas, revealing raw, ugly mud patches. But you can’t see any of that now. Every bit of imperfection is gone. Covered. Completely hidden.
It’s all so hard to grasp. I mean, I come to God feeling awful, and then I confess. Suddenly—just like that—it’s all gone? I can’t imagine that kind of forgiveness.
I take that first step. And then another. It’s so strange, like I’m invading something that God has completely remade. The field is new again. Brand-new. Walking into the snow is a privilege, like a gift of starting over. I’ve walked that stretch of field a hundred times before. But with this blanket of snow, it’s like the first time ever.
I know part of all this is learning to accept God’s forgiveness. Learning to forgive myself. I don’t want to ever do it again. I can’t believe how dirty I still feel next to his utter holiness.
Then the sun comes out from behind a cloud and hits the snow, making it glitter like a billion diamonds, sparkling and twinkling over everything.
Even though I’ve been a Christian for years, I suddenly feel new at this—this conversation with my God. How do you talk with someone you can’t see? You can’t hear? Someone you can’t touch?
I glance behind me. And you know, it’s kind of sad to see that my own footprints have marred the perfection of the snow. Then it starts snowing again, and my footsteps begin to disappear. But I keep walking—making more footprints.
Something tells me that if I determinedly keep at this—if I just keep trying—I’ll learn more. About me. About God. About us. But it isn’t easy.
Ironic, isn’t it? First the field is just a field with all its flaws. Then the snow covers everything and makes it new. I come along and walk into its perfection, marring it again. And then it snows once more. Oh, God. Your work in our lives is so gracious, so intricate, so beautiful, and so very…undeserved.
I prayed today. Some days, that’s hard. But I know that I’m in God’s very presence. I’ll keep trying, God.
I walked today. It was work. But I walked in the beauty of God’s creation.