By Cornel Warren Originally featured in Fall 2016 of Live with Heart & Soul Magazine
All photos Copyright Pearl Communications 2016. All rights reserved.
As I descend the earthen steps into the wild woods of Old Man’s Cave a canopy of leaves and branches envelopes me and the sun is dimmed by a haze of green. Even in steamy July, the shade seems to block out the humidity and time’s hand slows. Such magnificence deserves a second glance. I bend down low to look closer at the mossy stones, covered in a delicate dusting of tiny green life. Those white speckles are actually tiny white flowers, blooming so small that it makes you wonder why they even bother. But someone sees. God sees. And He leaves little treasures like these all around us.
Every footprint I make leaves a footprint on my being: God has hidden precious treasures here for me.
We were by nature...
In an age where every part of our identity is being called into question, and where terms like “gender spectrum” leave us scratching our heads, the tranquility of nature grounds us. Here there are no questions of identity. Here it is all nature. Ephesians 2:3-5 comes to my mind.
We “were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” (NIV)
Our nature was once wild; wild like the branches and vines tangled above me. Our hearts were once hard; hard like the moss-covered stone, carved and cut by hundreds of years of wind and water. We were once children of wrath, just like the world.
I look at the leafy brush growing out of the rock. Is that how we once lived, trying to sap strength and nourishment out of cold, dead stone?
Our wisdom is folly to God, and when we take a step back to examine our lives, we see our folly as well. The forest is a good place to take a step back. It’s still. Our minds can think clear and hear, absorb the wisdom that He speaks to us. There are no flashing lights, no drone of talking television sets flooding our thoughts with what is supposedly important. Yes, something happens when we get into nature.
His rich mercy
When I spend time in the wilderness, I often wonder what it would have been like to find this place as a frontiers-woman. Here I would have stood, after an arduous journey and I would have to build a home. I would have to carve out a place for myself between the rock and the trees and the bramble.
When my eyes first saw the light, I didn’t realize where I’d landed. It was all new and strange and I had to learn to understand. And the more I learned, the more I understood that I had, indeed, found myself in the thick of the forest. The wild forest was inside of me. I was by nature a child of wrath. Wild.
But God... God, who is rich in mercy and greatly in love did not leave me to fend for myself. He changed Himself to make a place for me. He found that wild child filled with thorns and brambles and He loved me.
I walk on to the Cave. It is dark, cool and damp. As part of the sanctification process, we are taught to exterminate any evil that might have taken root in us. But then all we are is empty, cold and dark. The absence of our wrathful nature is not all there is. That is not the life of abundance. Paul continues in Ephesians 2:6-8 “and [He] raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
His kindness and grace is beautiful. It is a blanket of green, peppered with miniature flowers. His love grows in us as we grow in Him. First we are hard as stone. But we see His love, and we can’t help but be transformed by it. His rich mercy doesn’t leave us in the wild. It doesn’t even leave us when the wrath is gone. It continues to press in, deeper and stronger until we burst into life like the sun bursts through the leafy canopy.
At His Word
A short drive back on the winding Route 664 and we turn once more into the wilderness where our cozy two-bedroom cabin stands almost blending in with the backdrop of trees and hazy green. We are less than an hour from Columbus, and my cell phone barely works.
I listen some more. God isn’t finished with me yet. The full life, the life of abundance, that’s His desire for us. He shows me how much life there is in the forest: tall, old oaks and maples, honeysuckle, ivy, moss and mosquitoes. There are song birds and woodpeckers and whitetail deer and yellow jackets. The nourishment God provides sustains them all, and us all.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:9-10 reveals a bit more love: we are not in our own hands, but in all-powerful Fatherly hands. Those hands bring forth life. They touch us and fill us and grow an abundant life within us. And then it starts to spill out.
I smile at my Father, and He smiles at me, and my daughter smiles as she dances around in the leaves. God’s abundance grows without bounds. He liberates us to experience it to the fullest! We are not responsible to save ourselves. We are responsible only to take God at His Word: we are His workmanship and our salvation is His precious, perfect gift to us. And He doesn’t stop there.
He fills the empty caverns of our lives with wonderful blessings: good works that He prepared for us to do, beautiful paths that He has for us to walk in.
When we visited Hocking Hills, I was eight months pregnant with a ten pound baby and I could feel life within me. The anticipation in the final month was exhilarating: Who was this little boy going to be? How much would I grow to love him, and he me?
God anticipates our love for Him the same way. He loves us first, draws us close and keeps us safe. But He also raises us. We are His workmanship. He waits eagerly for us to love Him back. He hides treasures all around us and celebrates our delight with us when we discover them. Tiny flowers blooming for almost no one to see, the grass of the field, the sparrow in flight.
Our lives in Him are full, and the more we experience of Him, the fuller we become of life. Nature helps us see, and the Word helps us hear.
Father, help me to find you more often. Quiet my heart so that it can be filled with you. Work on me some more, Lord, and fill the caverns of my heart with your abundance. Show me Your secret treasures, Lord, that I might rejoice with creation at the majesty of our Creator. Amen.
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Cornel Warren, Managing Editor of Live with Heart & Soul, shares her heart as she reaches Christian women with timeless, beautiful content to encourage and inspire their walks with God, themselves and those around them.