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Are We Alone In the Woods?



Oh. Is this picture not what you imagine the yard of a family in urban ministry to look like? Well, that’s the beauty of Atlanta. You can live in an urban neighborhood five minutes from downtown and still have a backyard resembling rural Georgia!

Gabriella loves the wonder of our wooded little alleyway. She piles leaves, feeds the dog rocks through the fence, sweeps with a stick. You know… the usual.

But sometimes she wanders too far… past where I want her to go.

As she was traipsing through the brush, destined for adventure, I started calling her. “Gabriella, come back.”

She turned. She stared. She did not move.

I tried appealing to her different ways, even signaling with enthusiasm as though I had something very exciting waiting for her back at the driveway. She remained frozen.

Friendly beckoning slowly transitioned to stern declarations. “Come here!” I shouted, while perfecting my most serious of looks. “One…..” She stares, expressionless. “Two….” Not a muscle even twitches.

Oh dear, I thought. Now I’ve started counting. What’s my plan here? The moment I say “three,” she will take off running deeper into the trees. I’m wearing sandals. I have no desire to sprint through foliage. But I can’t say three and not do anything. Do I just stop counting?

I did something else. I was positioned at the corner of our fence, and I stepped to the side. I could still see her through the slats, but she could no longer see me.

We have movement, people! That little girl ran as fast as her little legs could carry her, hurrying back to the driveway… back to me. Whew! Sandal running averted.

Kids are such good reminders of how we must appear to God on occasion. When I find myself in an unfamiliar place, I may wonder why God has left me. Standing in the yard with Ella, I realized God doesn’t leave like I won’t abandon my daughter. But perhaps… God stepping out of our view brings us running back more than countless reminders, invitations, or commands.

But I don’t like that concept. It makes me feel like God is manipulating me.

Then again, I don’t think of myself as manipulating my daughter. Maybe some would say that. For me, though, my strategy kept her from danger, produced no kicking and screaming or tears, and brought her back to me. I hope that replaces any perceived deceit in my actions and focuses on the love behind them.

When do you sometimes feel that God is nowhere around? How do you respond?

3 comments

  1. Katherine Bullock12:37 PM

    ironically, i go into the woods when i need a spiritual boost. maybe gabriella is listening to God calling her into the trees too. :) i didn't realize you had such a cool backyard - awesome!

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    Replies
    1. I love it! Maybe she was listening to God. :) You all should come visit and you and Ella can walk in the woods together!

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    2. sounds like fun - i'd like to see your neck of the urban woods someday soon

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