Enter the Haven

The Future is…Foggy?

My girl, my Fairy Princess, my eldest, has just been home on Spring Break. For a week, she ate, slept, played, and worked under our roof. At the end of the week, I drove her the ten hours back to her college, where she is finishing her final semester as an undergraduate.

It’s difficult to wrap my mind and heart around the idea that this journey is almost over. For the last five years, with a couple of exceptions, our times and seasons have been marked by the periods when she is with us and the times when she is away. Her future after this spring is simply a series of questions to us at this point.  Will she go away to graduate school? Will she stay here and pursue her graduate work? How long will she live at home before she is ready to establish her own nest? None of us — including the Princess herself — knows the answer to those questions at this moment. She has been pressing steadily toward the finish line of graduation for a long time. What life holds beyond that line is still a haze to her. But that’s okay.

It was God her Father who led her to this college and eventually to her course of study and calling, and it is He who holds the map for the next leg of her journey. As she seeks the Lord, He will make the way plain, one step at a time. She is a visual learner, and in His foresight, He long ago gave our family a visual demonstration of the way He will always lead us and the way we will need to follow.

When she was a wee Princess, we took one of our favorite family day trips into the Shenandoah Mountains. In those lovely mountains, there is a place called “Big Meadow,” so named because it is, in fact, an enormous meadow. The Native Americans, who once called the area home, performed controlled burns to keep the trees at bay, and the National Park Service has continued that tradition. As a result, Big Meadow has remained a residence for many meadow-dwelling creatures and a delightful place for visitors to see deer families enjoy their morning and evening meals.

On this particular mountain evening, after a lovely day of kite-flying fun, Sweetheart, Beau, Fairy Princess, and I decided to take a walk in the very foggy meadow. (Muffin hadn’t yet graced us with his presence.) In the mountains, to walk in a fog is to literally walk through a cloud, and this fog was the thickest that I had ever experienced. I’m confident that the same was true for the children.

There are walking paths throughout the meadow, worn by the frequent passage of visitors. We had started out on one of those, excited to see the deer having their dinner, but we soon discovered that we could not see the deer or anything else. In fact, we couldn’t see further than the person behind us and a single step in front of us. That’s all. The deer, the meadow, the other visitors, and the wayside store had vanished into the cloud. Suddenly, Fairy Princess could see only the step directly before her. She could not see her family behind her, except perhaps the person nearest, though she could hear our voices. What to do? If she stood still in fear, she would be trapped in the meadow, but when she took one step forward — the only one she could clearly see — she immediately found that she could see the one that followed, but she could not see it until she moved.

And so that’s how we found our way out of the meadow — one faith-filled step at a time. We knew that the path, the meadow, the other hikers, the grazing deer, and the wayside had not disappeared, but they were of no help to us in those moments. In that meadow, the Princess and the rest of us had the surreal experience of following a path we could not see, trusting that after each step another would appear. We could hear our loved ones’ encouragement around us, but each of us had to take one step of faith after another in order to traverse the Big Meadow that day.

I’m certain that Fairy Princess is reliving that early experience in these final weeks of her undergraduate career. When she entered college, all she had to do was follow the program for her chosen major (which, admittedly, underwent a couple of shifts) until she had finished the course. Now, five years and a tremendous amount of personal metamorphosis later, I’m sure she feels as though she is standing in that meadow again with her clear vision replaced by a great unknown. The only way through is to trust the Hand she’s holding and take the step before her, the only one she can see. When she does, the one after it will be revealed. Perhaps there will be times when God will burn away the mist for a time so she can see more of the picture, but even then, she will need to “walk by faith, not by sight,” continuing to take one step at a time to follow the path He has marked for her.

I wonder if part of the danger of being shown the entire picture at once — the “Big Meadow” of our lives — is that we might let go of the Hand guiding us and rush headlong toward whatever destination is in view, shouting, “I got this!” over our shoulders as we run. But we would undoubtedly bungle the journey, take the wrong paths, and miss out on what our Guide has for us along the way. Indeed, each step in this life with Jesus is a destination in itself. It is another opportunity to fellowship with Him, to speak His words and do His work, to encourage others on the road, to grown stronger, and to view the beauty of His creation along the way. Every step becomes part of the adventure with Him.

I’m looking forward to watching my precious daughter’s adventure with her Lord continue to unfold. If she occasionally grows impatient and tries to pull her hand from His so she can run ahead, I know that He will be there to rescue her from danger and lead her back to the path He has lovingly laid out for her. He is never far away.

Hike on with Jesus, Sweet Princess! He will never leave you in the meadow alone. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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