“Our vocation is not only to do what the Word told us to do but also to say what the Word told us to say, until the whole world is transformed by the news.” Barbara Brown Taylor, When God is Silent
Is there anything more beautiful than a walk in the woods in the middle of October? Sunbeams, streaming through a golden canopy of maple leaves, creating a cathedral of light. The pungent smell of decay, tickling the nostrils and igniting feelings of nostalgia for the dying summer and memories of autumn days as a child, raking piles of leaves into leaf houses. The sounds of crunching leaves underfoot, and brown sycamore leaves still clinging to the trees, applauding the beauty of the day. The visceral sound of thousands of bird wings, felt deep in the chest, as a flock of grackles takes flight, flashing purple and black in the treetops. The taste of smoke, carried across the lake on the wind.
It couldn’t have been more perfect, this walk Wally, Joel and I took yesterday on the Big Woods trail at Hueston Woods State Park, just down the road from Cloudland. We’d had a morning of worship and praise at The Oxford Vineyard, a tasty lunch at the Mexican restaurant in town, and then this walk on a perfect October day. It was the end of 10 days of sickness for me, and several months of rapid-cycling mania for Joel. It couldn’t have come at a better time. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
But God had even more in store for us.
I had been leading the way, Joel behind me, walking slowly, tentatively through the leaves, afraid of tripping on a root. Wally took up the rear. We’d been walking for 30 minutes or more, and were climbing the hill toward the car.
Suddenly, Joel sped up from behind, appeared at my side, and grabbed my hand. He grinned at me—the special Sunday-morning grin that he shines on us at church each week—a grin of pure adoration and love. With that, he clutched my hand even tighter, not letting go immediately as my long experience as his mom told me he would. He walked next to me, squeezing my hand and swinging my arm, his grin widening at my obvious delight.
This might not seem like a big deal, this hand-holding on the walk up a hill in the middle of the woods on a beautiful day in October. Might even seem blasé, cliché, boring. On the contrary. This was magical, this was stupendous, this was sheer gift. My 26-year-old son, this son with autism and all sorts of sensory issues, never holds my hand. He gives me high-fives. He pats my back. He lets me pat his hand. Let me repeat. He never holds my hand.
We walked the rest of the way up the hill in the golden light, scuffing our feet in the crunchy leaves, breathing in woodsmoke, listening to grackles chattering in the trees. Hand-in-hand.
What could be more beautiful than a walk in the woods in the middle of October? Holding hands with a messenger of God.
God’s message for me?
It is all grace. It is all gift. Taste, eat, for the Lord is good.
The Word told me to tell you today, that you might be transformed as well.