A couple months ago, my sis and I took our kids to a state park and did a short hike. It was only a mile long and it was supposed to end at this beach on the lake with shells and fossils. It sounded like something our kids would really get a kick out of and we both like hikes, so we hit the trail. By trail, I mean paved sidewalk for the first portion. It was idyllic... at first. Sidewalks. A pond on the right, the lake on the left. Beautiful docks, ducks swimming, birds chirping, people walking their dogs, and cute older couples snuggling up on a bench. I was enjoying this part of the hike.
We went across a footbridge and into the woods. It was warm and muggy and there were bugs. Honestly, we were getting to the point in this short hike that I just wanted to get to that beach and kick my feet up in the sand, letting the kids run around finding shells. I was anxious to just get there already. I may not be in the best shape of my life either so when my almost two year old was done walking, carrying him (I didn't bring a baby backpack... genius, I know) felt like I was carrying a 10 lb sack of potatoes on the hike... except it was more like a 25 lb sack of potatoes that wouldn't stop whining and accidentally kicking me in the side.
My four year old was amazed on this hike in the woods. He has grown up in the desert, we recently moved back to Virginia, so seeing trees is new. Being surrounded by woods was like being on some alien planet. Some magical adventure. He wanted to stop at every tree root and try to pull it up from the ground. He wanted to touch every funny looking plant that we walked by. He wanted to look for rabbits, birds, bears, and monsters (which he firmly believes are real - and is unafraid). He was completely enraptured by the beauty of the woods. I was completely over it.
I know I'm a good mom, but this was one of my less than stellar moments in parenting. Instead of letting him take his precious time along the trail, I found that I kept hurrying him along, grabbing his hand to get him back on track and insisting we speed up. I knew what was at the end of this trail was better than the trail itself. I knew he would think this beach was even greater and more magical than the woods. I knew it was flipping hot and I was carrying a cranky little brother. I couldn't have been more impatient or silently irritated.
I'm not kidding you, God stopped me right in my tracks on that hike. I had turned around to explain for the fourteenth time that no matter how hard he yanked, those giant tree roots wouldn't come loose so he could use it as a sword, and before the words left my mouth, I heard the voice of God. "You think I'm hurrying you along in your life because the end is greater than the journey, but baby, I LOVE when you enjoy the small wonders on the way. I love when you take notice of all the hidden treasures I've put in the woods for you to find. Yes, we have a destination and yes, I will help you remember to follow the path we're walking together, but I want you to stop and look around from time to time. I want you to look back and see how far we've come. I want you to see the beauty all around you, even when you aren't there yet. Don't be in such a hurry. I'm not rushing you. I'm not irritated with you. I'm with you."
Honestly, I so love when God gives me a parenting lesson. Sometimes, the trees feel overwhelming. I feel swallowed up by the shadows they cast and that path is a narrow walk. Sometimes the heat and the discomfort really get to me and I'm just ready to get where we're going already. Get me out of this place, Lord. Get me to my destiny because the woods suck. I'm miserable here. I'm tired of walking. This load is too heavy to keep carrying, Lord, and it keeps kicking me when I'm already tired. Everything feels like it's slowing me down and I just want to arrive.
If we slow down. If we decide to face those trees without fear. If we believe the shadows can't harm us, we'll see so much beauty in the journey. So much wonder in the process of destiny. He has hidden treasures in the dark places for us to find. He has made the path narrow so we don't wander too far to the right or to the left. He is with us. He isn't waiting on the other side wondering when we are going to get our act together and show up. He is with us. Emmanuel. God is with us.
That lesson in parenting the heavenly Father taught me changed the rest of the day. It changed the rest of the days following too. So let me just encourage you the way He encouraged me. Baby, He has treasures and wonders hidden in the dark for you. Don't worry about showing up late. He isn't waiting at the end for you. He is with you. Don't be afraid of the darkness. It won't overtake you. It won't swallow you whole if you just grab onto His hand. He is with you.
Emmanuel. He is with you, baby.