Written February 10, 2017
I have already mentioned that where we live there’s a downward pull. The Cowichan Valley is, because parts of the land sharply rise up into smooth shaped mountains, while others settle down, like a blanket laid low. The Cowichan (“Warmland”) tribes are the largest indigenous group in British Columbia, Canada, and one of the mountains watching over Cowichan Bay is called Tzouhalem, named after a chief who was banished there late in his life.
Before we moved here I used to go for long walks. The sidewalks surfaces and paths I chose rarely inclined or descended, preferring to keep on the level. Out on these stepping strides my breathing was relaxed, like a slow drift down a silent stream on a rubber dinghy. If moisture popped out from my brow it was only because of the heat was so gripping that standing still would wet me down and melt me.
Here in the valley, things are different. Long walks are called hikes and I purchased a pair of boots to show I was all for it. I still am fascinated by my quickening breath even when my gait is slow, as though rapidly moving water and still banks were competing to see who would flinch first. Someone told me early on not to go to a hiking spot on my own. It would be wise, she said, to have someone show which path to take, since even experienced hikers lose the way. I call Mount Tzouhalem my favourite, and still step eagerly into my PT to find it back and go against it again.
The year was 2015, the month September, near summer’s end. My mind was lingering long on the conference I’d attended when summer began, a time when teaching was received with lumps of gratitude and, better than all, we were whisked off to practice what we’d learned. The claim constantly clambered into us was the intriguing insinuation that the Holy Spirit might actually be able to show us the path to take, step by step.
By that time I had hiked Tzouhalem many times. I was quite comfortable with the routes to take, and indeed was planning to go on a course I’d recently discovered. The flaw in this scheme came when I realized that yes, the main paths were engraved into my memory. There were loads of side paths, however, and it was one of these I was going to take.
I decided to try an experiment. I would ask God to guide me, to show me which way to go. I know this is not a high stakes life situation, and do not say it’s a magical formula that always must be stepped into. We’re not dealing with magic. In fact, I remember feeling a little sheepish, even a bit of shame for trying this. For this reason I was almost surprised, shocked when suddenly, immediately following my hesitant request, I “saw” the crossroads I needed to take. To be clear, I had walked that way before so I vaguely remembered the place. In times past I would have dismissed what I saw as mere memory; that’s all. Nothing supernatural here except the the slogan cited on all British Columbia license plates. Where I was walking was super natural.
It is not magic. It is a picture of being known, loved, cared for. I was wanting to be taught, wanting to practice by using a literal path to learn how it works. I was learning to cooperate, so that when “real” need presented itself, I would recognize that the guidance wasn’t just a thought humanly derived. I was certain my God had shown me which path to take.
This was moving me out of routine and into the place where I had to rely not on my own strengths and know how. What a wonderful thrill to see the crossroads I needed to take. This was like the stories come alive for me to walk in!
It seems to me sad that something so standard to the stories of Abraham, David, Isaiah, Jesus and Paul, that it is a surprise when they breath life in our day. Yet are there not many verses in the book we call the Bible, that claim exactly this? I want to recount a few of them.
Enoch walked with God.
“Go to the land I will show you.”
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.
He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
“He will guide you into all the truth.”
“He will teach you.”
“My sheep know my voice.”
“Go to that road.”
“Come over and help us.”
If God is really alive, then why can’t he guide us like that today? I’ve been around long enough to get very uncomfortable with what is said of Jesus when he went to revisit the town he grew up in. It says something, he couldn’t do many miracles there because of their unbelief. I wonder if we expect God to break through to us still, to give us break throughs of our own? I wonder if another question Jesus asked is one we ought to grieve over and cry out to God about? “However, when the Son of Man returns, will he find faith in the earth?” Penetrating,searching question!
I invite you to come walk with me, come hike through the mountains, the valleys to see what we will see. Come and be open to the possibility that God is still very keen on getting in on what is going on, on the earth. Amazingly he is quite eager to involve us in his activities. It almost seems as though he won’t do anything without us! It’s not magic. He often uses past experience to bring things to mind, to lead the mind into. He also uses his very word, every word that comes out of his mouth, to direct our thoughts. He will draw our attention to what we’ve read before, showing how that word works in the now, in the instant we find ourselves in.
It’s not magic. It’s knowing and more, being known by the One who made us.