We begin our journey into Psalm 27 with an illustration of change. What do we put our faith in when the path ahead twists unexpectedly and precariously, exposing the shadows that lurk within?
In my youth, the word “change” was synonymous with adventure; and the world was like a beautiful, mysterious forest waiting to be explored. I didn’t seek the well-worn paths, but the overgrown trails where wildflowers bloomed around hidden streams. It thrilled me to visit exotic places and eat strange, new foods—to meet people from all walks of life, share my heart for a season, then move on to the next experience. I was spontaneous and fearless, and welcomed every chance to enter the wilderness of the unknown.
As I aged and settled down, particularly after having children, security began to climb my list of priorities. I never lost my love of adventure, but I learned to dress it up in contingency plans and weapons. Forests, after all, have threats lurking in their shadows. I began to prefer escapades of the tame and predictable variety rather than brave the uncertainty of wilder places and circumstances.
Over time change became an unwanted thing, and I avoided it as much as possible.
Yet, despite my aversion to it, change has remained a constant in my life in some way or another. I’ve lost and gained friends. I’ve surrendered roles and taken on new ones. Money has been tight at times and loose at others. These shifts from the norm were tolerable because, however they might’ve tugged at my sense of stability, they never stretched me too far, and they certainly didn’t break me.
Then the past twelve months unfolded.
I lost my brother, one of my greatest loves, tragically and unexpectedly. Since then, in addition to learning how to deal with the grief, I’ve had to awkwardly stumble through this new role as an aunt whose nieces and nephew have lost their father, as a daughter whose parents have lost their only son, and as one of three sisters who sorely miss our younger brother. And I’ve had to do that from an additional two thousand miles away courtesy of a recent move across the country.
What had been a fairly comfortable adult life has been forever altered, like a tree of change with branches and roots jutting in every wild direction imaginable.
I’m in my forties trying to meet new neighbors and make new friends. I’m grieving. I’m watching my young, shy teens acquaint themselves with a youth group of eight hundred kids when they were accustomed to a pack of ten; and I’m giving them the room teens need to navigate those waters, despite this new fear of unexpected loss that accompanied my brother’s sudden death.
I’m struggling with all of these changes, yet I know that God can do something beautiful with them, including the brokenness of my heart.
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
At my new home, I sit outside in the mornings facing woods so dense I can’t see through the trees, and I wonder at its secrets. What makes the clicking and buzzing sounds that accompany the croaking song of frogs and an occasional shuffling of some creature in the underbrush? I hold my breath to prolong the perch of a hawk or cardinal on a near overhanging branch, and watch butterflies and dragonflies flit in and out of the forest’s depths.
The thoughts of my carefree youth and cautious age collide. What in those woods would awe me with their beauty? Or swell my heart with their song? What lies within that my eyes have never beheld?
On the other hand, what would poison me with its berries or prick me with thorns? What would stalk me as prey?
Life, wild like that forest, is full of beauty, wonder, and riches, yet laden with danger. Sin, wrong, evil, predators—these run rampant in this fallen world I call home for a time. And when I let them, they temper my appreciation for all that has been and stifle my wonder for what can and will be.
Sitting before the forest—this vast creation I cannot fully see and that God knows intimately—helps me understand that to expend all my efforts fruitlessly resisting change and hardship is to forfeit the extraordinary and miraculous.
Losing my brother is a pain like I’ve never known, yet for thirty-four years his beautiful soul shared its love with me. Starting over in a new place is awkward and uncomfortable, but the potential of finding a new heart-friend excites me. Watching my children grow up into their own is scary. And watching them grow up into their own is marvelous. I have much to be thankful for.
I have been thrust into this wilderness and have found God magnified here. God who never changes. God who is holding me and guiding me, calling me to brave the dangers and walk again among the wildflowers with Him. God who is reminding me to trust Him with my sorrows and to not lose heart.
Because I have seen His goodness. And I will see it again.
Tanara McCauley is a writer of stories inspired by the adventure she lives in Christ. That adventure includes one husband, three children, and a fearful little dog named Charlie. And books. Lots and lots of books.