Years ago, when I lived in Montana, I had a wonderful gelding named Apache. The whole family loved that horse. Anyone could ride him; he was totally trustworthy. I especially liked taking him out on short jaunts in the woods. Fearless, smart and oh, how he loved to run, but there was one thing he would not do. He would not jump over anything. No, not ever, which most of the time was fine. But sometimes, in the woods, when a tree had fallen across the trail our ride would have been much nicer if he would have just jumped the fallen tree. But alas, he would not. Ever.
One day, I hooked up the horse trailer, loaded and it and drove out to the head of a trail I loved to ride. I had done the math, I knew that if all went well, I had plenty of time to make this ride and get home in time to pick up the kids from school. About an hour in, we came upon a tree that had fallen across the trail. The tree was probably three feet in diameter. Wouldn’t have mattered if it was only one foot in diameter, I knew Apache would not step over it, much less jump it.
The trail was narrow and had been cut out of the side of the mountain. To our right, the trail went upwards sharply and to our left, it drastically dropped. We were stuck. No way around, no way over.
I got off and studied the situation. I got behind him and leaned into his rump. He glanced back and me and switched me with his tail. I got in front of him and pulled with all my might. No movement out of him. I begged him, I threatened him, I pleaded with him. He didn’t budge.
At the time of this trail ride, I had just ended a 23-year marriage to a man who preferred drinking to sobriety, other women to me and being gone from home more than being at home. I spent a lot of days kicking myself for what I called wasted years. This ride was my last opportunity I had to take this kind of ride and I desperately wanted to make it to the top.
Please God I prayed, don’t let today be one more waste of hope and time.
Out of frustration, I walked over to the tree and I kicked it with the heel of my boot. To my surprise, the formidable roadblock just caved in.
Dust flew upward and pieces of bark fell downward. The air was gray for several minutes until the dust settled and I was able to see again. Where the log had crumbled, I noticed tiny evidences of life. Intrigued, I bent down for a closer look. The log which had appeared to be dead, totally useless, too rotten for even good firewood, concealed underneath it an entirely new ecosystem. The sprouts were white from lack of sun exposure and unidentifiable to me.
I had been focused on waste – my marriage, my time, my prayers, my efforts to reach the top of this mountain when studying this undergrowth, the Holy Spirit spoke these words to me, “In God’s economy, there is no such thing as waste.”
Hope blew across me like a gentle breeze.
I didn’t make it to the top of that mountain that day. I have never been back to that trail. But what I learned there was stayed with me ever since. The healing that came from those words is indescrible.
I couldn’t know then what my future would look like any more than I could tell what that undergrowth would become. But I knew this, whatever that new growth looked like, it would be just as viable a part of the ecosystem as had been the tree that blocked my path. Only God knows what my future will look like but I know I can trust Him to piece together the fragments of what I called my wasted years and create a new life that He can use.
painting by Sharon Snell
pic credit: johnmichaelhelms.com