Someone I reconnected with in Atlanta last week sent me a story that they had written. I loved it and I asked permission to share it with you. There is so much in this little story that desribes my own journey as well, how God won me away from the cabin to explore so many things with him. It’s quite a process to get us to stop processing life with our own eyes, hopes, and biases and see the amazing adventure he wants to share with us. I hope it inspires you as well.
by Mike Spessard
I cannot remember how or when this journey began exactly, but as I look down into this valley with Him, it just seems like He has always been there with me. This valley is the most incredible place I’ve ever seen. Where is a camera when you need one? I have never seen anything so beautiful and inviting in my life. It is “the” time of day, my favorite. The light is incredible, but I’ve always loved the shadows of this time, long finger-like blues and grays stretching across the terrain like God’s own hands caressing His creation. The sun is slung low on the horizon so that its light casts warm hues of orange, red, and yellow, creating a longing in me, not a sad one mind you, but one of hope. It’s like a lingering remnant of a presence is here, and it’s telling me it’s coming back in full. Anyway, He seems to sense it too.
I’ve noticed the more I hung out with this guy, the more I am aware of our similarities. Neither of us says a word for a long time. I’m not sure how long, but there is no awkwardness. He seems to “get” this moment too. As a matter of fact, He seems to get it more than I do. I love this guy. Have you ever met someone that you just can’t be around enough? I love being us.
He turns and smiles. “Me too,” He says.
Did I just say that out loud? See, that’s what I mean about my friend; He just seems to know what I’m thinking. “Seriously though, did I say that out loud?” I ask.
Now He’s just flat out laughing. “You ready?” He asks.
“Dude, seriously, it’s last light, and you want to go explore this valley? We should really have ropes for this kind of descent. We have no idea how steep this gets at the bottom. Let’s come back in the morning so we can have the whole day?”
With His Cheshire cat smile, He begins descending into the valley. And while I protest, I notice that I too am beginning to get pulled on by this panorama that spreads before us.
“This is so stupid, dude,” I tell Him. This is not the first time I’ve let Him talk me into something I thought better of. But you know what’s strange? He has always been right. Every turn in the road, and new direction He suggests seems to speak life to both of us. But I’m not sure what brings Him the most life; the new adventures themselves, or me coming to life in them.
I think I should back up and share with you some more of this journey with my friend, so that you can better understand why I am following Him into this valley as night falls.
Like I said earlier, I don’t remember how this all began really. One day we just started walking. And we walked all the way to the state line and just kept awalkin’. And that’s all I have to say about that. He loves my Forrest Gump impersonation. Over the years we have seen a lot of different terrain. Sometimes the going is easy through grassy fields, rolling hills, or meandering streams, but other times we’ve ended up crossing what I would call a wasteland or dessert getting the crap kicked out of us by the sun.
“I can’t wait to get out of this place. We could die out here,” was my usual reaction.
“I know! Isn’t it a rush!” he’d say. I cannot tell you how annoying that became. Anyway, I did begin to appreciate all the different places we went even if I did think they were harsh initially.
You know, as I look back, I realize that in the beginning it seemed I was always leading. I don’t remember Him ever complaining, and there were many times, maybe even most, when we walked side by side, but I would always be the one suggesting a direction. “Sure, Mike, whatever you want,” was his standard answer. “Sure, Mike, whatever you want.” It became kind of a joke between us.
Once when we were walking through a field full of cows, I mockingly echoed Him as He said it. A second later I experienced the sensation of not nearly old enough cow pie impacting the back of my head. He was laughing so hard He could hardly stand up.
“That was so wrong!” I exclaimed. As I dropped my backpack to the ground, I bent to pick up my own fecal artillery and announced, “Game on!”
You may not be aware of this, but cow pies are amazingly similar in shape to Frisbees, and I did play quite a bit of ultimate in college. My first toss was a direct hit to the side of His face, knocking Him to the ground. He was so out of breath that He was unable to get to his feet before round two slammed into his kidney. This went on for entirely too long, and you can imagine how we ended up looking and smelling. As we caught our breath leaning on our knees, I noticed the producers of our ammo, some 200-300 cows all looking at us as if they where thinking, “People are so stupid.” We laughed until our bodies ached. Note to self: next time we decide to do something like this, make sure there is a body of water nearby.
It may seem strong to say this, but that memory is a treasure to me. We’ve had many experiences since then that fill my heart, not all of them joyous. Disagreements, fights, loneliness, and distrust have all seemed to find their way between us. Looking back, I see it was all my doing. Sometimes I thought we just needed some time apart. I never suggested this, but I’m sure of how He would have responded. “Sure, Mike, whatever you want.”
Sometime in the middle of our journey, we made our way through a spire of mountains. It was tough going. I mean steep! Toward the end of that day, we discovered a plateau that stretched between two ridges, and because I had begun to walk behind Him, something inside me said this must be our destination. This place was amazing. Once we got in the midst of the plateau, it got even better. There were tons of trees, flowers blanketing every direction, plenty of wildlife, and a lifetime of water to fly-fish. It felt perfect. We ended up staying between these two expanses of mountains for weeks. Everyday we explored more of it, and as it became more familiar, I became more comfortable.
As we ate dinner one night, I brought up the idea that this place would make a great home. “Look,” I told Him, “we have everything we need in this place. We could build a cabin from all the trees and have plenty to eat. We’d never have to ask for anything from people in our journey.”
He just smiled, but this time He didn’t say anything. He just smiled. I almost felt a sense of sadness in His reaction.
“How can you not want to stay?” I said. “We can make it here. I can plant crops. I can fish and hunt. This place has everything we need. On top of that, it’s beautiful.”
“It is that, Mike,” He said, “I’ll stay here if that’s what you want.” He paused as if He wanted to say more, but only added, “What do you want?”
“I’m tired. I want a place to call my own,” I answered.
He gave a disappointed nod, but His eyes didn’t condemn me.
“Look,” I said, “Let’s just hang here for a time. We can explore everything around here. Then we have this place to come back to every night.”
“Sure, Mike. Whatever you want.” There it was.
I started building a cabin the next day. The days were long, but they never seemed it. I would work from first light to last, save for a few hours to wet a fly line with Him. Even though He was out exploring, I finished in about a month. It was perfect, and I must say, I was pretty proud of it.
We settled in to the daily routine of chores and upkeep of the place, always leaving a little time for exploration and fun. I think He even started to enjoy staying there, although, on numerous occasions, I caught Him staring off into the horizon like He was looking for something. When I inquired as to what He saw, He just smiled and said, “Nothing. I was just admiring the view”. I wasn’t sure I believed that. There was a longing in the way He just stood there. What did He see out there?
Days grew into weeks. Weeks grew into years, and I sensed my friend was growing bored. He didn’t laugh as much, and he would go off for days at a time. He would always come back with descriptions of what He had seen and experienced. Something inside of me missed that journeying we experienced years ago. Sure there were a lot of unknowns, but there was an excitement and freedom in it.
“You have got to see this valley I found yesterday. It’s awesome,” He said.
“What’s wrong with this one? This place is still pretty incredible.”
“Oh yea. I know,” He answered. “But there is just so much out there Mike. So much that I want to show you.”
“Yea, it would be nice to see them, but I have so much I can do around here, and there always seems to be a lot of work to be done.” Oh no, I have turned into my dad. I was sure it would never happen. “You know what?” I said. “Tomorrow I want to see it. The valley, I mean.” His smile was one I had not seen in a long time.
Early the next morning, we set out. I’m not much of a morning person unless I am going hunting or fishing, but when I do get up early, it’s always amazing: the dew on the grass, the smells, and the birds just going nuts. The shadows are long, and the sun beckons, “Follow Me.”
It was good to be moving with Him again. I realized I missed being in places that weren’t familiar. There is a kind of discomfort about it. He seemed to thrive on it, my being uncomfortable, I mean.
It took most of the day to get to this place. I didn’t tire though; I guess it was the anticipation of seeing this place He had talked about so much. Getting there was brutal. He never did seem to find easy ways to get to places. He didn’t see the point in that. As I reflect on all our adventures, the most difficult ones were the most satisfying, not necessarily while we struggled through them, but when we would finish. We always seemed to finish well.
That brings me to where I began this story, the valley. You need to understand, He is great at underselling something. His description of this place did not do it justice. I think this was intentional. He wanted me to experience it when I wanted it. After many minutes of not speaking, just looking at this place, I turn to say something to Him. He isn’t even looking at the valley. He’s looking at me. He’s just enjoying me, enjoying this place. Why didn’t I come sooner?
“Why didn’t you tell me it was this incredible?” I say.
“Mike, … I did.” That was all He needed to say. Message received. I was so focused on my comfortable little cabin. I had missed out on being in places like this. I had forgotten what living looked like.
“Dude, I’m an idiot. I’m sorry.” I say.
“No worries,” He responds. “So how was today, Mike?”
I look down and take a moment to make sure I answer honestly. I notice that most of the skin on my knees is gone. Blood is running into my sock, which I’m pretty sure contains a leach I picked up at the last river crossing. I’m covered in scratches and bug bites, and I stink. My response: “It was awesome.”
He smiles and nods as He drops into this valley. Normally at this point, I begin to weigh the pros and cons. Not this time. I’m right behind Him. I don’t think we’re going to see the cabin for a long time.
Mike Spessard is the director of Grace Summit in Roswell, GA.