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 intermittent bird calls. The shadows provide a welcome respite from the late afternoon sun.
As we trekked down a steep incline, Susan caught her foot on one of the tree roots and fell forward, screaming “James!” At the bottom of the incline, James calmly turned. 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 James, who caught her from below. She escaped injury because James held her safely in his arms.
Over the years Scott and I have often laughed over this incident. Although Susan’s tripping could have injured her, all turned out well because of James; he safely caught her, preventing harm.
Continuing my woodland walk, I focus on the roots beneath my feet. The tree roots I see on my path represent only a small portion of the roots filling the ground below me. Throughout this woodland the roots grow underground, only occasionally surfacing along my path, only occasionally visible to my eyes.
As I travel through these twisting woodland paths, I carefully watch where I place my feet, as tree roots crisscross 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. After prom we walked in the woods, enjoying the pre-dawn scenery and longing to watch the sunrise together. My friend Susan walked in front of me and her boyfriend James walked in front of her.
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 I falter.
Even when I cannot see His arms, they provide comfort and strength. To feel that strength and comfort, I only need to call out His name. Just as my friend James caught Susan in his arms, so God will catch me. I may stumble, but He will catch me and protect me.
Recently, at my high school reunion, I learned that Susan had died earlier that year. Even though we had not kept in touch, I mourn the loss of a dear friend. But I am comforted by two images: James 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.
Those everlasting arms long to hold us, too. As we navigate this treacherous life, He calls to us, “Come find joy in my presence, come rest in my everlasting arms. Come, rest in Me and know peace.”