Recently I went on a private retreat in the Valle Crucis, NC area. While on the retreat I took time to explore the surrounding area and decided to hike some of the local trails. As a flat-lander from Florida I did not take into account that it had been a couple of years or more since I visited Colorado. As I started out, I took the walking stick that was provided by the place I was staying and set out on the journey. I decided that I would attempt a semi or difficult trail that led to a outlook point called Profile View. It was only about 2.5 miles from the starting point. Off I went with only the walking stick and a protein bar in my pocket. I left my small supply of water in my vehicle. Enough said on that account. While the view was beautiful at Fascoe point and Profile View (it is a profile rock exposure of Grandfather Mountain) the journey was difficult and by the time I returned the fatigue from lack of water had set in. Note to self – take water.
The next day I decided to a hike to the falls that were located on grounds of the conference center and the hermitage where I was staying not thinking it was going to be a hard hike. It would only be a little more than a mile to the falls and then return. As started on the trail from the hermitage, an old logging road, the hike was a continue descent down. For about 1.5 miles it descended and descended through the forest that surrounds the area. In the back of my mind I knew that I would have to ascend to get back to hermitage. Again not thinking, I did not take water nor did I take a walking stick thinking that would not be a difficult hike for this flat-lander.
Then the thought hit me. It would have been good to take the hiking stick. It would have helped going down and definitely helped headed back up the hillside. As these thoughts were racing through my mind I noticed a broken branch about four foot in length with bark that was starting to decay. It had been laying on the bed of the woods for sometime. Lichen has started growing on the bark, the moisture had started to decay the bark and the wood but I picked it up and started using it. When I made it to the falls I was thankful that I had found it as it aided my footing over some rough areas. It was there that I started to scrape off some of the bark off where my handhold had been. As I scrape it along the edge of large boulder a portion of the stick that was rotten broke off. As I continued using the edge this large rock to scrape the bark it revealed a solid piece of wood under it.
When I returned to the cabin I thought about how God had provided just what I needed. There was something more than that; it had to do with the stick. As I began slowly peeling the bark away with a knife down to wood and removing the layers of the bark it revealed the beautiful piece of wood underneath. It wasn’t perfect, there would still more to do later, more refining, sanding and polishing.
God does that with us. We are broken creatures due to sin in our lives and in the world. There are many things in our lives that may have been traumatic leading to our brokenness or it may have been just that we hadn’t experienced a relationship with God. Even in our Christian walk we can still experience brokenness.
As I thought about this I wondered how many times someone may have just passed by the stick thinking it was just a decayed piece of wood. I wondered how many people walk by others without seeing them. And then I realized that is the way we are and it is God who picks us up. We are broken pieces in a broken world yet though others might see us that way and not want to be bothered by us or do not see the decay of sin because of our facade, it is God who picks us up. He is the one who removes the old and makes us new. He is the one who refines us over time. What appears to be useless He uses for His glory. While the logging road was steep and I stopped many times along the way to catch breath, the walking stick provided exactly what I needed to complete the journey.
Yes God picks us up. He refines and strips away our outer appearance that is left from the world to reveal His image in us. As He refines us He uses us for His glory and to touch lives as He touches ours, to serve Him and not ourselves.
Along our journey with God we will see the broken branches of our lives like the walking stick. The walking stick was God’s provision helping me even in its less beautiful phase – from the time I picked it up. God will do that in your life when we allow His hand to pick us up.