Walking in the woods today with Gibbs was hard work. The trail was not well tamped down since our last storm that dumped about a foot of snow on us, and with each step I was sinking in 3 to 4 inches. Even Gibbs, with his prancing walk and four paws, was sinking into the snow one to two inches. And every so often I would have to stop to stamp the accumulated clumps of snow from my boots so I didn’t feel like I was wearing platform shoes. Yet the woods were still and beautiful, silent and calming…. And it might be my last time to walk in the snow this year as the rain is heading in tonight.
As I walked I opened myself to listening to the woods to see what they had to teach me today. Just letting the steps and the peace soak into me. I reached a point where there was a cross made by two broken trees, highlighted in snow. I called Gibbs to my side and we sat a while with that cross, pondering this season of Lent and how it leads to the cross. And this cross I found in the woods was made of a broken branch hanging down across a broken tree. Sitting with this nature’s cross I wondered what needs to be broken from my life? What clumps need to be knocked off my boots (or out of my life) because I no longer need them? And what hopes and new life can be seen emerging from the brokenness of the branches? What new life will they bear?
After a while, I continued to walk with these questions in my heart when suddenly the previously silent woods erupted in a cacophony of sound. I had reached the crest of hill that was alive with bird song. No where else had the birds been hanging out, but here, they were chirping and singing and gliding and pecking. Right here. Life in abundance. Hope flying freely around. And with these simple sounds my heart soared.
I was reminded, in that moment, how hand in hand brokenness and hope live. We may think we are so broken that we forget hope is its partner. Yet, in reality, brokenness is the thing that can allow hope to spring forth. I’m not talking about the brokenness that is inflicted on us by injustice or abuse (for, although hope can be present in those moments, these can be times when hope feels far away), but the breaking open that we allow ourselves to enter into to make room for something new. The breaking open that we do as we walk closer to the Divine. The breaking open that we invite when we know it’s time for us to take a step forward in freedom… kind of like stomping the clumps of snow off my boots to allow traction for the next step.
As I walk through this Lenten journey toward that cross of brokenness, I pray that I will continue to clear the stuck stuff in my life, that I will continue to break open to allow new life to be brought in, that I will continue to have the ears to hear new songs coming to life in surprising places.
And I pray this for you too!