I did something yesterday, something I apparently needed to do. I took a walk along the river in my little village. It wasn’t one of those nice walks in the warmth and sunshine though. It was cold. I had to put on a hat and an extra layer; my gloved hands shoved deep in my pockets. I could see my breath too, but not too bad.
I did a lot of thinking and praying. I thought about my fears, my hopes and dreams for the future. I thought about my fears about my hopes and dreams for the future. I let whatever emotion come that would come. I let the tears come if they wanted. Only the sheep, fields and river were there to see them. I let any – and every – thought come up, pouring it out before God…and then I left it there for Him to take control.
Of everything that came up, I hadn’t thought that fear would be the most prominent. Yes, I’d been a little restless of late but I didn’t think that fear would be such a strong underlying cause. When I took an honest moment to be real with myself, it became so clear that I was scared. I was scared of my unknown and uncertain next steps, scared because the plans that I thought I was making seemed to be fading away into something else.
I’d planned to walk a long way along the river, but I soon found myself facing very soggy and marshy ground…and I wasn’t wearing my wellies. Frustrated by the dead end, I turned back and stopped at a place where I could stand still and watch the river flow along. Watching the water, I was reminded of the beginning of Psalm 23 when it says: “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul” (ESV).
I felt anything but ‘still waters.’ In fact, I felt very much like how the running of a great house was described in the British TV drama Downton Abbey: “It’s like a swan: you have the beauty and grace above the water, and then you have the feet furiously paddling underneath to keep it all afloat.” I was very much a picture of calm on the surface, but under the surface was a roiling turmoil of a battle. So I once again poured everything out for only the river and God to hear.
When I finally turned back to go home, I saw something that I hadn’t noticed on my outward march. Some sheep wool had snagged on the low-hanging branches of one of the trees. No doubt the poor sheep had felt a little discomfort and annoyance when first caught, but then went on with life once they’d tugged themselves free. The little tufts of wool left behind bore witness to the temporary struggle but no more. I’m sure that the sheep had no thought about the struggle or lost wool after the fact.
The fact that I hadn’t seen those tufts of wool in the bush made me think about one of my new year’s resolutions: live each day to the fullest, being fully present. I’d been so caught up in looking ahead that I had missed details and little joys along the way. I was focusing so much on something in the future that I was losing track of the present. I let my desire for some form of control become the controlling force of the present.
So I left that alongside the river too.
That soggy dead-end stopped me from walking too far as the sun set. It sent me back to see something beautiful that I’d missed. It allowed me to return home before it got too dark.
That wool snagged in the bush reminded me to take each day as its own and leave tomorrow’s worries until tomorrow.
Are you marching into the sunset? Is there something you might have missed along the way? What’s your ‘wool in the bush’ reminder? What thing are you holding onto that’s preventing you from enjoying the present?
Hannah (USA) has been serving as OM Ireland's journalist for two years. A trained writer, she loves sharing stories of people and their God-inspired life moments. She believes that everyone has a story worth telling, and it's a true joy to be the one to tell them.