I went for a much needed prayer walk (hike) this past Wednesday. My hope was to get away from the office in time to change at home, and then hike a section of the shoreline on Lake Grapevine. But alas, I got home later than I had hoped to arrive, so I ended up walking through a city park in Euless that meanders between Fuller-Wiser Road and Hwy 360.
Since I knew that over half the hike would be in the dark, I carried a lumbar pack, with flashlight, house keys and cell phone, and off I went.
That I prayed while I walked is not entirely accurate. I hadn't walked hard in over a month . . . and I wanted to walk the trail I used to ride with my bike. Knowing that darkness would mean less people (and with the exception of 4 guys walking their dogs, I didn't see anyone else after dark) I set out and walked 7,130 steps . . . mostly off trai; . . . and just tried to reconnect with nature . . . and the order of things.
First, I noticed that I got out-of-breath very quickly . . . I've been nursing some allergies lately . . . and it felt like my bronchial tubes were constricted . . . but not that I could not control my breathing with some effort. I concentrated hard on inhaling and exhaling . . . and found a rhythm that worked. My breathing began to match the pace of my stride, and I began to get more c comfortable.
Then I began noticing that there are a lot of little yellow butterflies in the park . . . and that they are somewhat active as dusk and darkness approach. One landed on the top of my walking stick, and rode for a while as I continued down the trail. When I look down several minutes later, after crossing a bridge . . . the butterfly was gone. As I turned around . . . he was flittering down into the creek bed.
Part of this trail runs behind and below a rather large 3-story apartment complex off Bear Creek. I noticed the flood lights filtering through the trees . . . and how the trees with new growth leaves . . . were an almost gold color in the light. As the breeze picked up, the leaves quivered, and the gold turned into a orange tinged rust color, then would flicker back to gold.
Awesome. That made me stop . . . and I knew I needed to rest for a few minutes. So I watched the lights and the leaves. Felt proud of myself for taking a few moments at least, to stop and look and something beautiful . . . something I would have missed driving by in my car.
A little before the half way point of the walk . . . darkness had fallen . . . it was cloudy Wednesday evening, and I thought darkness was coming early . . . perhaps that thought was poignant considering Maundy Thursday services last night, and Good Friday services which finished just an hour ago.
The trail I was walking is made of fine crushed rock . . . I call it a "cinder trail" but can tell you why. In the fading light . . . it glowed, in a faint sort of way . . . even in sections where the trees covered the trail . . . I never lost sight of the trail . . . so I went deeper into the trees than I planed . . . walking close to a creek, but hearing no noise of water . . . as the creek was running very slowly.
The hike back to my car . . . it was dark. And to tell you the truth . . . darkness is still spooky to me sometimes. But not Wednesday evening . . . I actually felt like I could see through the darkness . . . I was calm . . . I was not anxious at all about the darkness, and the many, many shadows . . . I kept my stride long and my pace constant . . . and felt secure the whole time.
I also felt . . . that although I was the only person on the trail for most of the hike . . . I was never alone. Toward the end, my chest was really burning . . . and I knew I needed to take my regular nightly dose of allergy meds when I got home . . . but I knew I had the strength to finish. If not in me, that strength was there with me if I needed to call for it.
As I neared the parking lot where my car was parked, I passed one of the usually most noisiest places in the park, a large and artfully built play ground. In the afternoon and early evening hours . . . it will be teaming with kids climbing, sliding and swinging, as their parents watch while sitting on nice benches just a few feet away. However, as the time neared 9 PM on a school night . . . is was quiet.
I noticed the quiet. It was that "loud." It made me stop . . . and look around.
It was dark . . . a little bit of light from a street lamp across the parking lot slightly illuminated the bottom of the playground, but not the top or the area behind the playground . . . it was still . . . and that is when I first think I heard the still small voice O sometimes hear inside of me . . . what I believe is God's voice . . . saying . . . "that was a great walk. Let's do it again soon!"
I walk to hear God's voice. I walk when I need to pray. I walk when I need to think and clear my mind of clutter and worry.
Sometimes, like last Wednesday . . . I just needed to walk, and walk hard, just because I needed to. And in doing so . . . I s felt God's presence.
On Wednesday night . . . God just being there with me was all I needed.