You’re Closer Than You Think – Sharon Tubbs
If there’s one thing I’m not, it’s nature girl. I don’t mountain-climb or hike. I don’t think little furry critters are cute. And I typically don’t take pictures of sunsets or trees or open fields—unless they’re serving as backdrops to the smiling face of an actual human being.
So when I got this idea to go on a nature walk—or as close to one as you can come in suburban Florida—I knew it had to be God.
A few days earlier I’d gotten the news: The board of directors for a publishing company couldn’t review my book proposal as scheduled. I was devastated. I had tried to break into the industry so many times before, and this latest setback seemed like the sign of another failure. I had been dragging ever since. I prayed in the usual spot, my spare bedroom, but still felt unsettled. I wanted to go someplace new, somewhere fresh. I felt the need to get closer to God, not just spiritually, but also naturally. I got in my car one morning and headed to the county park. Little did I know that God would transform my nature trail experience into a cherished life lesson.
I turned into the entrance and drove around the winding path until it stopped at a lot on the park’s farthest end where some fathers and sons raced remote control cars on a dirt track. I remembered passing what looked like the opening to a walking trail on my way to the lot and headed back in that direction on foot. I passed a birthday party with barbecue and balloons under a pavilion. Farther along, a couple sat in lawn chairs beside a cooler, a grill, and a chirping puppy.
Finally, I came to the opening in the wooded area and my journey, as it were, began.
Surrounded by natural beauty, I instantly felt at ease and realized the first bullet point in my lesson that afternoon: If God, the magnificent Creator, can fashion the Earth, He can handle my future.
As His Word says in Psalm 24, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” On the trail, I could literally see how awesome God is. He is the One who created all that lay before me: the tall trees with their trunks snaking beyond reach, the pebbles crackling beneath my feet, the freshness of the day’s air. He is the God of the oceans and seas, the mountain chains and the flatlands, the stars, the galaxies. A God who is powerful enough to do all that, I figured with renewed energy, can surely get me a book deal.
I began to thank Him for allowing me to live on this thing called Earth. I prayed for a breakthrough in my understanding of who He is. Occasionally, I passed a couple or a jogger along the trail and I’d stop praying long enough to wave and smile as they sauntered by. Then I picked up the conversation again, asking God to speak to me, to open doors to my destiny.
Each step and prayer brought serenity—until, that is, I got deeper into the trail. I stopped seeing passers-by, and those sounds from creatures in the brush grew louder. I wanted to turn around and go back to my car. I hadn’t seen a map on my way in, so I had no idea where the trail led. Yet my spirit wouldn’t let me retreat, nudging me to go forward. If you’ve ever gone against what seemed logical in the name of what just “felt” right, you know what I’m talking about.
That’s when I sensed my next lesson for the day: Keep pressing forward.
I remembered what Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” I knew that I had to keep going, on the trail as well as in life because God had something new for me to see. He had told me so thousands of years ago: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)
Soon I started to pass people on the trail again and I knew there must be a clearing up ahead. I would have to retrace the entire length of the path to get back to my car, but I was determined not to complain. This was my time with God, after all.
I heard laughter as I approached the opening at the trail’s end. In the near distance were a parking lot, a dirt track, and the chirping sounds of a tiny dog. Off to my right, a family gathered under the pavilion with balloons and the smell of barbecue. It was the same scene I’d passed while walking along the gravel to find a trail opening in the first place. The trail must’ve looped around and ended just yards away from where I’d parked my car.
I began to smile, realizing the final spiritual nugget for the day: You’re closer than you think.
On the trail, I thought I was getting farther from where I wanted to go, but in reality I was moving closer to it. I saw the parallel in my life. I’d been telling myself to stop working so hard and to give up on my dreams—they would never come true. Now, I wondered whether I was actually making progress somehow. On the trail and in life, I didn’t have the benefit of a map. But God did. Perhaps He was looking down and thinking how illogical my plan seemed. I can see Him up there, waving me along and yelling each time I stopped, “Just keep going straight and you’ll run right into it!”
Three days after my walk, I got a call from the publishing company. The board of directors would, in fact, consider my book proposal in the days to come. A week later, my idea was officially approved and a contract was on the way.
These days, walking and praying on nature trails is one of my favorite things. And I have half a mind to take my camera along one day for some pictures of just the landscape and trees.
You may be feeling as I was, tired or overwhelmed by a struggle to attain your goals. You might be disappointed with your stage of life or uncertain of where you’re headed. The key is to stop and acknowledge God’s majesty, knowing that He is mighty and capable of doing “it” for you—whatever your “it” may be. Make up your mind to listen for His guidance and to keep pressing forward. Then rest and know that with each step you’re getting closer to your purpose, much closer than you think.